back to article It’s official: Vodafone and Three to tie the knot in the UK

The long-rumored merger between Vodafone and Three in the UK is finally on. The two have agreed to invest £11 billion ($13.9 billion) in the country's 5G infrastructure over the next 10 years as part of the deal, and claim that combining operations will deliver greater competition in the market. Vodafone and Three UK were …

  1. PeeKay

    This merger *will* reduce consumer choice *and* increase costs

    Bugger - I just moved from Vodafone to Smarty (effectively 3), as Vodafone could not or would not provide a cheap enough 'all you can eat' data package.

    As a consumer, I'm not seeing the benefit of this merger. While Vodafone will get access to 3 masts (and vice-versa), will it really improve coverage?

    And I can't be the only one to wonder how on the one hand they're (combined) willing to blat £11bn on improving their network over the next 10 years, and then on the other espouse the cost savings of $755m each year...?!?

    From my perspective, EE/BT = too Expensive, Virgin Media/02 = too mediocre and Vodafone is costly, but has a lower coverage in some built up areas of the UK (including where my office is right now).

    Not seeing how this can be a good thing, except for Vodafone?

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Will it really improve coverage?

      No. For example, the rural area I live in (200+ properties) has no real coverage from any of the networks (they all claim it, at first, but it's of the "you may have to use it outside" when you dig deeper).

      All that I can see happening here is the number of unavailable services will reduce by one.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Will it really improve coverage?

        I would say that I’ve had some real success with the new range of legal mast repeaters - one antennae on the roof, powered booster box and a mini mast inside the house. Absolute game changer for me.

    2. Humpty McNumpty

      Re: This merger *will* reduce consumer choice *and* increase costs

      Vodafones Smarty equivalent is Voxi, depending what exactly you need unlimited data for, it is broadly comparable.

      They claim their current market share renders them incapable of competing with the scale of their two primary rivals, I could believe that given some of their financials and anecdotal evidence based on network performance. In my home town, Three has very strong signal but zero data flow on one side, they are aware of the problem and "have no plans to improve the network". Arguably between them they have some spectrum you could force them to give up, mostly the high frequency 5G Three has in excess, perhaps a new player might fancy another shot at a wireless broadband play.

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        Same in Durham

        I quite often get a strong signal, but no data.

    3. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: This merger *will* reduce consumer choice *and* increase costs

      Will it improve coverage? No. We are in a big town and struggle with signal in the house 9n Vadafone. Yet I just got back from Norway, was on a cruise ship in the fjords just breaking away from them and got a better fucking signal.

  2. Franco

    Don't fancy their chances of getting this past CMA given Three's merger with O2 was vetoed on the grounds of number of network providers dropping from 4 to 3

    1. druck Silver badge

      Plus the national security issue of allowing what would be the second largest UK mobile network to be part owned by a Chinese company (CK Hutchinson being Hong Kong based).

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Also there will be the small matter of frequency allocations, and ensuring the 3 remaining operators have an equal bandwidth share.

  3. Howard Sway Silver badge

    The resulting company has yet to have an official name

    Well, if you're going to be honest to your customers, call it Vodafee.

    1. moonhaus

      Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

      "Well, if you're going to be honest to your customers, call it Vodafee".

      I've heard they're going to combine the names. From Vodafone they'll take "Vodafon" and from Three "e".

      1. Mishak Silver badge

        Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

        Or ThrOne?

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

          Game of …

          1. Splatterplatter

            Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

            Given their shit coverage I propose: Throdaphone

    2. TonyJ

      Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name


    3. Franco

      Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name


    4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

      call it Vodafee

      Or Vodabunny.

      (Breaks into your field, steals all your carrots..)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The resulting company has yet to have an official name

        Call it VodaCONEE

  4. thondwe

    Coverage - Mast sharing

    Three have a mast sharing deal with EE - so EE and Three work here, but Vodafone and O2 don't (hence no Smart Meters either - they are Telefonica/O2 only "down south"). Get out of the village and we can see the Vodafone mast, so inverse coverage!

    Would a Vodafone/Three merger result in losing the EE mast share = worsen choice?

    I know market forces and all that, but surely one national fault tolerant Mobile provider is the way to go - think of all the duplicate resources that are wasted having multiple providers putting a masts up all over to provide "choice" - all needing power - all pushing up CO2? We got one PowerGrid, one water delivery network, one sewage network, why not one comms network??

    1. moonhaus

      Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

      "surely one national fault tolerant Mobile provider is the way to go"

      A single network can never provide customers with redundancy, it's not like power or water where you can have a local backup. Let alone all the issues that would cause with monopoly pricing. See for example Australia's NBN.

    2. SkippyBing

      Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

      I remember when we used to have only one comms network in the UK. So efficient you could often get a new phone in under six weeks if it wasn't too much trouble for them...

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

        True, however BT openreach is still basically a monopoly for infrastructure

        The problem was not at the backend. There was no point having a switch per provider, but the consumer end. i.e the last 100 yards.

        There has many attempts to create infrastructure competition, and generally it just fragments the market, increases duplication and does not reduce costs, or companies just cherry pick the biggest markets and do not invest in others. See network rail, power grid, water for reference.

        The main issue is that companies are not willing to invest in infrastructure unless forced, and even then kicking and screaming because it cuts into shareholder dividend

        A national mobile infrastructure with a mandate to proved 100% universal coverage seems to make perfect sense, but is far too late now.

        That is until the formation of VodaBTEE-3

      2. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

        One comms network in the UK? *looks out of the pub window at a decommissioned Kingston Communications phone box* Which one would that be then?

        1. SkippyBing

          Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

          We can all make up fictional places with their own communications network. Like Australia.

    3. Mattjimf

      Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

      Is there one water delivery network? Pretty sure it's regional based Scottish Water, Northumbrian, Thames, Severn-Trent with the sewage run by the same lot as water.

      Pretty sure the PowerGrid is split up as well into regions as well.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

        Try changing your water provider, tell me how that goes.

        You can change your electricity supplier, but the water supplier is entirely out of your hands and you must pay the local for-profit company that runs your area if you want water, with no competition or choice.

        1. Mattjimf

          Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

          While that is true for household consumers, businesses can change suppliers so, technically, you can change water and sewage supplier regardless of where you live.

          Besides the argument was a single network supplying these services, which there isn't, it's not Great British Water plc. The only thing that is run like this in the UK would be the rail lines under Network Rail (N.I. may be different).

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

      And this is why I bought a dual-SIM phone, on two different networks. Only one needs data for both to connect, because of Wifi Calling functionality nowadays.

      As I keep saying:

      - Infrastructure should be nationalised.

      - Services on that infrastructure can be commercialised.

      Nationalise the water system. Commercial the sale to customers.

      Nationalise the sewer system. Commercial the sale to customers.

      Nationalise the electrical grid (oh, if only we had a "National Grid"). Commercial sale to customers.

      Nationalise the road network ("Maintained by...").

      Nationalise the PSTN telephony network.

      Nationalise the back-end DSL network.

      Nationalise the mobile network.

      Nationalise the rail system. Commercial the individual routes.

      And so on.

      Then maybe things like emergency alerts would work for everyone, you wouldn't need three separate masts competing for frequency in the same town, and you could, say, change your water provider (you literally CANNOT change your water/sewage provider at the moment, but it's all managed by individual profit-making companies.... madness).

      Anyone that thinks that entirely capitalist societies can function well is insane.

      Anyone that thinks that entirely socialist societies can function well is insane.

      You need the mix, and a clear line, and legislation to stop that line ever being crossed (i.e. a permanent law that you CANNOT privatise certain core backbone industries).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

        There's stupid and stupid, but this is Jeremy Corbyn stupid.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Coverage - Mast sharing

      Given the sharing of masts and associated infrastructure, I am a little surprised the first move is to merge two operators rather than to further consolidate the mast networks. There really is no reason why Vodafone and Three can’t be MVNO’s on the same mast infrastructure, which they may or may not wholly own and which might be shared with other operators.

      This consolidation makes sense given 5G will be latter and more costly, given the political removal of Huawei from the market.

  5. katrinab Silver badge

    How is this going to work?

    O2 and Three weren't allowed to merge due to competition concerns. How is Vodaphone any different to O2 in that respect?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “great for customers, great for the country and great for competition”. Erm, okay…

    Love how anytime two companies merge into one it's supposed to increase competitiveness, which is always spun as better choice for consumers even though it never really turns out like that.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Competitiveness reduction?

    All as bad as each other (over the years tried most of them, all dismal).

    If one of them makes a mistake and actually gives an offer that is a lot more competitive than their rivals, it won't last long (when you come to renew find that previous option no longer exists)*

    Although I'm obviously not saying they act like a cartel, don't want to worry el reg legal team.

    Regulators should shoulder some blames for lack of competitiveness - e.g. address the rules that let the mobile companies automagically increase your costs (on "contracts") to reflect "inflation" (yet though the CEOs do nicely I don't see them increasing the pay of the coal face wage slaves by an inflation equivalent amount). Amounts vary but most of them raise it by inflation plus an extra 4% or so, Even worse the T&Cs of most (not all) of them do not let you jump out of teh contract when these big [price hikes are added.

    Especially notable recently when inflation is high & so mobile costs have increased a lot. Rather makes a mockery of the idea of contracts allowing you to "budget ahead" when you are slammed with hefty increases.

    * Had a couple of "too good to be true" contracts that were unavailable to renew & only options were usual typically dismal deals, or they changed the T&Cs e.g. stopped you sharing your data with other devices (years ago partner & I deliberately used different networks as when away on holiday doubled chance of a signal between us & if only 1 of us got a signal used to be able to share data with the other by setting phone as wifi hotspot so they could use their phone, they long since stopped that & now means often 1 of us just has a useless phone on holiday as neither of us trust public wifi much)

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Competitiveness reduction?

      For what it is worth, O2 do allow tethering if you have one of their xxGB/month contracts, but not the old "unlimited[*] T&C apply contracts that is no longer available.

      1. moonhaus

        Re: Competitiveness reduction?

        "For what it is worth, O2 do allow tethering if you have one of their xxGB/month contracts, but not the old "unlimited[*"

        Networks preventing tethering is a breach of Ofcom "net neutrality" rules. There are some weird technical reasons why the "hotspot" option might not show, such as for smaller providers who've not created a carrier profile or older pre-2015 SIMs that have missed an update somewhere, but if you've asked and been refused log a complaint with Ofcom*.

        *Yes I know that's about as much use as complaining to the ICO or the ASA but it might prompt a response.

  8. anthonyhegedus Silver badge


    All the Mobile Phone companies lie about coverage.

    Good 5G indoor and excellent outdoors = poor 4G inside and out, giving nearly 5mbps at best

    Excellent 4G inside and out = 15mbps maximum no matter how you locate your device

    Poor indoors 4G and good outdoors 4G = you have to walk to the top of the road to get a text

    Oh, and not forgetting "wifi calling means you don't need to worry about signal coverage" = you can't get texts on wifi calling, so it's a short walk to the top of the road for you

    1. Boufin

      Re: Lies

      Wifi Calling does support SMS (on Voda and O2 - not sure about Three)

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: Lies

        Ah ok well it never used to on o2, which is why I changed to EE

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Lies

          With the old EE app there were circumstances where it wanted a direct connection to the EE mobile data network before it would load. For many years this required stepping out the backdoor…

      2. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

        Re: Lies

        Only if you have approved phones running their tweaked firmware allegedly.

        My Cat S62 supports SMS over WiFi but not on O2. I have to go outside and be patient. According to O2 its not supported by them and they won't turn it on, even though it's a feature supported by the version of Android on the device. With VoWiFi they turned it off when I updated my contract for similar reasons, I told them I'd cancel my business contract and take it to a provider that would play ball if they didn't turn it back on and after a "I'll just check with manager". They refuse to budge on SMSoWiFi.

        Since SMS is currently 2G dependant, and they're going to turn that off soon, you'd think they'd join the 21st Century!

        If you have the latest iPhone or Samsung on contract with them, it all works.

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I'm on

    3 and dreading this linkup

    Mainly because the guys on Vodaphone say that vodaphone's billing and customer service is shit, and 3's customer service is shit and based in India so the customer service of the new company is going to be shit^2

    Anyway.. we all know who'll benefit the most from this..... the C level execs who've come up with this merger along with the shareholders...

    oh and 11 billion over 10 years.... so thats vodathree logos on premiership footballers for the next 10 years then and 1 million for a mast somewhere

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: I'm on

      I'm on Vodafone and I have no problems with the billing or the customer service. Yes, you'll get some dunces, but the proportion of dunces in EE is higher (speaking from the T-Mobile experience first, and then eventually EE when I had a Mi-Fi device or two and tried unsuccessfully to register them both to the same account).

      I'm not too happy about this merger either, given how Voda's claimed they're the best (and no, they're not, EE have shown themselves to be better in terms of coverage), and they want to turn off their 3G network (there are still pockets in the Shire here were only 3G exists, so...).

      We'll have to wait and see.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: I'm on

      …. Will be a whole new opportunity for 3 to fuck new existing customers over recontracting them on a worse deal.

      I bet the combined - shall we call it ShitMobileCo - is already running the numbers on repeating the hatchet job on GoRoam with Vodafone’s Global Roaming.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    maybe if they weren't so crap....

    They wouldn't be so small compared to BT and Virgin

    I'm with EE because they always had the fastest network and they have the best coverage. I used to be with Vodafone but their coverage was pathetic. Maybe if they'd spent some of that tax money they avoided on actually improving their infrastructure, they might be up with EE and O2.

  11. da39a3ee5e6b4b0d3255bfef95601890afd80709

    I dumped Voda and Three for O2 ... least worst

    Vodafone is expensive and forcing 24 month contracts on everyone they can. Three customer support is incompetent - where do Three tell you only LTE available (no 5G) when roaming in EU? Yeah, nowhere obvious, and try getting support from Three when you're roaming and can't use data but can place calls. This is not good for consumers. Not convinced we can rely on Ofcom to help, based on past performance.

  12. xyz Silver badge

    Off topic but...

    A little bit o' advice to 2FA types out there in the reg-o-verse. I have NO BLOODY MOBILE SIGNAL at all, so when I do shit online, DO NOT send your 2FA verification code via SMS... It drives me nuts!!!

    I thank you.

  13. 43300 Silver badge

    "In a statement, Vodafone Group chief executive Margherita Della Valle hailed the move as "great for customers, great for the country and great for competition,""

    Yes, a further consolidation of the UK mobile industry into an even fewer number of large companies than at present,really screams 'competition', doesn't it...

    Do these corporate mouthpieces actually expect anyone to believe the crap they come out with?

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