back to article Vodafone and Three's UK arms locked in merger talks

Vodafone has confirmed it is locked in negotiations with CK Hutchison Holding Ltd – the owner of Three UK – over merging the two businesses' operations in Great Britain, creating what would be the largest local telco. Talks between the pair are understood to be at an advanced stage and a potential agreement is intended to be …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    Size matters

    In the UK mobile market

    I'm with 3, purely because my partner is not ...*

    That way, when we go somewhere else in the UK then a better chance at least one of us will get a signal (though have been occasions when both of us have had a not spot) to keep in touch with friends and family (as unfortunately finding a working phone box to use is quite difficult now).

    It's pathetic in a country the size of the UK that coverage everywhere was not mandated, reception should not be a mobile provider lottery.

    With EE getting the airwave replacement contract they are essentially getting a huge market advantage in tax payer funded coverage in less economically viable areas, consolidation of some of the other providers is about the only way to stop EE becoming a de facto monopoly.

    * Neither of us with EE, tempting as it is with our liking of hiking in remote parts

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Size matters

      >reception should not be a mobile provider lottery.

      It isn't. At least not entirely. Ofcom have set, and the government has funded, a geographically-based minimum service provision through the shared rural network.

      1. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: Size matters

        Except, it is. There's entire areas of the county I live in where there are spots where some networks work, and some don't. My trip to work has several such not-spots.

        My home, as an example, has zero EE coverage, but gets Vodafone OK (though, not at 4G strength).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Size matters

          That would largely because the shared rural network isn't due for completion until 2026.

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Size matters


        You obviously don't live in the sticks or visit remote areas of the country e.g. large swathes of Scotland.

        I only have to travel about 3 miles to have signal strength so poor a voice call usually fails, and travel a bit further and get no signal.

        The fun of a very hilly region just makes things even worse re reception.

  2. Roj Blake Silver badge


    I've got a really good SIM with unlimited data at a good price from Three. That will obviously change if this goes ahead.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Annoying

      Weirdly, I get cheaper unlimited data from Smarty (a Three-owned company) than from Three... using the same network.

      1. lybad

        Re: Annoying

        Although the same company (or subsidiary) Three and Smarty are not the same - for example, Three customers probably get priority on the mast. And higher data speed for example.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Annoying

      ID mobile £8pm for 20GB and unlimited texts and calls, data rolls over so I get 40Gb for £8

      I don’t use much calls or data so they make loads from me but it’s good it’s there if needed.

      I have a work phone on an O2 mvno and it’s pants for data. Missus is on an O2 mvno and data on that is pants too,

      4G Throughput is less on ID than on 3 but I still get 15down 25up, in three it was a quite reliable 70/30.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Customer Service? Vodafone has heard of it. Hope the cancer doesn't spread to 3 (3 already is nasty enough)

  4. Nifty Silver badge

    When my mobile carrier (forgot the name now) merged with EE over a decade ago, I imagined that this meant more masts so at last I could get a mobile signal inside the local town centre supermarket. In my dreams. 'Merging' meant taking out masts until they were as sparse as before. At least nowadays I can get a signal in the local high street shops via Lebara/Vodafone, which is just a matter of luck on the mast siting.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do they always regurgitate this bollocks...

    "cost-saving opportunities"

    Opportunities meaning employees and cost saving means redundancies.

    So it should read "would offer many synergies and saved wages" and fuck the people we get rid of. I must protect my emoluments.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why do they always regurgitate this bollocks...

      Most of the people who knew what was going on, and were actually good at what they did, have long since gone after successive outsourcing deals and seagull management.

      The cost savings will be for Hutchinson really, as 3 are haemorrhaging money. If this doesn't go through, I wouldn't be surprised if it was just wound up.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why do they always regurgitate this bollocks...

      Along with the fatuous "In telecommunications, the most successful companies tend to be the largest". Since a lot of the network infrastructure has already been outsourced this doesn't matter any more. But bigger companies do tend to be able to lobby better.

      Reducing the mobile to three companies would be the effective approval of a cartel. Prices will rise, service won't necessarily improve and there's no need for investment.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the vast amounts of money 3 have wasted over the past few years, this was hardly a surprise.

    I hope Vodafone have done their due diligence....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What will happen with MBNL, and 02 will be out on a limb

    EE and Three are in a Joint venture with Mobile Broadband Network Limited so i wonder what will happen with that with the merger?

    The merger would also mean that both EE and Three/Vodafone would make very large networks, and would leave poor 02 with what to do

    I can see the landscape becoming however 2/3 main large companies providing the physical network supplemented by virtual networks providing the competition even if they are owned by the physical networks like smarty and voxi do now

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: What will happen with MBNL, and 02 will be out on a limb

      Maybe they can persuade O2 MVNO Sky Mobile and VM to offer some femtocells or get Sky’s The Cloud to ape BT WiFi and have Broadband customers for a monthly lolly rebate. That would broaden the network at low cost.

  8. Empire of the Pussycat

    Into the last year of my 3 contract

    Since they announced they were killing Go Roam for new contracts, there's no way I'll renew with them, coverage is poor even in central London.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Into the last year of my 3 contract

      Splitters !!

      They have history fucking customers over on contracts. This is just another example.

    2. simpfeld

      Re: Into the last year of my 3 contract

      I tend to find most networks are worse in Central London than elsewhere in the UK with the sheer number of people. But agreed Three is worse than others!

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Poor three

    Oh god , not vodaphone.

    Heard dire tales about vodaphone's 'customer service' and 'service outages' in fact enough to put me right off them.

    Bad as 3 maybe, they'd have to dumb down 4 levels just to get to vodaphon'es best

    And get ready to say goodbye to my nice sim only deal that costs 1/2 what vermin media charge for a fixed line...

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Poor three

      I dunno. With Vodafone about 5 years ? 60 MB download @ £24 a month; only had to contact them a couple of times: no worse than any other.

      Not needing a smartphone, a subsidiary cell sim, Talkmobile casts £5 a month for unlimited calls and texts; again, not bad.

      1. simpfeld

        Re: Poor three

        Vodafone were stupid slow at rolling out 3G and 4G.

        Lots of areas you could only get GPRS, within a few miles of a city boundary for a long time!

        Three was a dream after this level of service.

  10. katrinab Silver badge

    Don’t see it happening

    O2 and Three planned a merger before O2 went with Virgin Media. That was rejected due to competition concerns. Surely a Vodafone/ Three merger would go the same way?

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Don’t see it happening

      Current UK Secretary of State for Business is Jacob Rees-Mogg… so all bets are off.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Don’t see it happening

      Expect to see OFcom do a u-turn over its previous statements concerning there being room in the UK market for 4~5 national operators. It will also use the same justification for allowing the merger to go ahead, namely: it is in consumers interests.

      Why will Ofcom do this? Well because Truss & Co. are devotees of the unregulated free market. They will say that if consumers don't like it they can vote with their feet; being devotees they will naturally be blind to the real world....

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge

    ...a move to integrate TalkTalk could strengthen their overall position


  12. clyde666

    Where does this apply?

    The first paragraph says this is about happenings in Great Britain.

    Further down the article there are four mentions that it's about the UK.

    Once it talks about Britain.

    Once upon a time El Reg was vaunted for its attention to detail, it was a site one could quote safe in the knowledge of its infallibility.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No organic growth as Vodafone are shite

    Is this the only way Vodafone can grow ?? Perhaps stopping being shite and ripping people off would be a more productive strategy.

    "In telecommunications, the most successful companies tend to be the largest; bulking up would offer many synergies and cost-saving opportunities. Under the status quo, it's hard to see either operator growing enough organically to get close to challenging BT and Virgin Media O2 for size in the UK. that’s why Vodafone sold it’s 45% in Verizon and gave most of the $130bn lolly back to shareholders and fat bonuses.

    3 stopped growing after they fucked people over on contracts, and keep doing it.

  14. NeilPost Silver badge

    Vodafone sold it’s future

    Vodafone sold it’s future out with their sale of their huge 45% stake in Verizon almost a decade ago.

    They had an opportunity to leverage their business and partnerships to create a Vodafone Global business…. but threw it away for $130bn in cash to give back to shareholders and bonuses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vodafone sold it’s future

      "Vodafone sold it’s future out with their sale of their huge 45% stake in Verizon almost a decade ago."

      They made a "strategic" decision to sell their stakes in companies that they did not have (and were unlikely to get) a controlling interest in (i.e. 50+%), which is why they sold off their stakes in operators including Proximus, SFR, Swisscom, Verizon and instead rely on Partner Network agreements in those situations.

      "They had an opportunity to leverage their business and partnerships to create a Vodafone Global business"

      They already created a Vodafone Global business, Vodafone Global Enterprise in 2007:

  15. JavaJava

    Smarty Vs O2

    I'm on Smarty. My friends seem mostly to be O2 subscribers. On a speed test I can get 48/25, and have seen 89/28 when they can only get at most 70% of that. In general use the speed on Smarty fine for me. Others may have a different experience. I hope this merger doesn't bring lower speeds.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No mergers please

    Vodafone and Three already participate in a joint venture to reduce costs of upgrading and extending their network, so the assertion that a merger would help improve 5G coverage is balderdash.

    The only reason for this merger is to reduce competition, allowing higher prices. It should be blocked by Ofcom.

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