back to article UK merger of Vodafone and Three in competition watchdog's crosshairs

The UK’s competition watchdog is today kicking off Phase 1 of its probe into proposed merger between Vodafone and Three’s UK businesses to determine any repercussions the tie-up could have for rivals or customers. The two telcos first mooted their union in June, pledging to sink £11 billion into the local 5G infrastructure …

  1. SundogUK Silver badge

    "corporate greed" = maximising shareholder value. I'm good with that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A combined company may even be able to make an operating profit.

      Of course they used to manage that as separate companies, but then some bright spark in government decided that several billion pounds worth of infrastructure had to be scrapped.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Roland6 Silver badge

    Vodafone … to create the scale to compete against incumbent BT …

    Funny how Vodafone was once the largest UK mobile teleco, and could itself be described as an incumbent…

    1. NeilPost

      Re: Vodafone … to create the scale to compete against incumbent BT …

      Indeed the largest global with their former global reach around the world and massive stake in Verizon.

      Much pissed up the wall, or gutted from the business in special dividends.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vodafone … to create the scale to compete against incumbent BT …

      And the incumbent BT's mobile arm split off to become O2...

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    In my opinion Three is like a bad apple that will spoil the barrel.

    But given the CMA's impotence, there will be months of pussyfooting until the merger will likely go ahead.

    There is nothing CMA won't do to grab a headline instead of doing actual work to protect the markets.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forbid

      How so? Three have already been in the market for 20 years, and the same parent group was behind Orange for a decade before that.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Forbid

        Three have already been in the market for 20 years

        It's been always a mystery for me why...

        1. Catkin Silver badge

          Re: Forbid

          Back in the day (I'm not sure how it holds now), they were vastly faster, albeit with poorer coverage. During the first period when unlimited data contracts with tethering were available, it was better than the average ADSL.

        2. Mike007 Bronze badge

          Re: Forbid

          Three have always been the network for higher data limits. Go to a price comparison site and for any given package size all of the cheap options will be a carrier that uses the Three network. For quite a while they were the only network offering unmetered data...

          And near the bottom of the price comparison list will be Vodafone with one of the most expensive packages offering 1/4 of the data. I wonder what the result of this merger would be...

      2. simonlb Silver badge

        Re: Forbid

        20 years? Have they worked out how to get a 4G signal into a building yet? When I was with Three I could have 5 bars of 4G signal on the street but more than 3 feet inside any building I'd only get 3G if lucky and below that most of the time. If they can't generate a decent 4G signal how bad are their 5G offerings going to be?

        1. ARGO

          Re: Forbid

          Yes. The 800MHz band has been used since ~2015.

          It's comparable to the 900MHz that gave O2 and Voda a coverage edge for years.

          Strange that you lost 4G but kept 3G when going indoors though.

          The 4G 1800 and 3G 2100 footprints are almost identical, except that 4G 1800 was marginally better at dealing with walls.

          If you kept either, I would have expected it to be the 4G signal.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forbid

        Orange was France Telecom.. and now absorbed into EE and under BT now.

        Three was and remains Hutchinson. Completely different.

        1. ARGO

          Re: Forbid

          France Telecom bought Orange from Vodafone, who were forced to sell it after they took over Mannesmann.

          Mannesmann bought Orange a few years after Hutch floated half of it.

          Hutch were 100% owners when the Orange UK network launched in 1994 and for some years afterwards, and remained 50% owners after the float.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our three weapons are…

    We should never have allowed the incumbent mobile networks to start to merge at all.

    5 networks was a good number to have to ensure decent competition; allowing Orange and T-Mobile to merge sadly put paid to T-Mobile's pricing for the more budget-conscious (and look at the poor value of EH, sorry, EE, contracts now (BT-owned company in price gouging shocker, how surprising)), and allowing this further merger would inevitably make things even worse.

    Sadly "the future's bright, the future's Orange" and Three's "Roam Like Home" are both long ago history now… «sobs»

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Our three weapons are…

      'Three's "Roam Like Home"'

      My OH and I are both on ancient Three contracts that still has free roaming in the EU, USA, Canada and a few other places and its costing me <£16/mo and I never get near the data limit.

      They keep bugging me to 'upgrade' for 'more data' but I like my free US roaming cos my OH is from the former colony and this saves a LOT of money when visiting friends/relatives over there.

    2. Lurko

      Re: Our three weapons are…

      "5 networks was a good number to have to ensure decent competition;"

      And shit economics and poor coverage. Government have unlimited faith in "competition", and that's because they're all second rate Politics, Philosophy & Economics graduates who are too dim to understand how competition and finance REALLY work.

      The important thing about infrastructure is that it's bloody expensive, and digging a trench for a 1 Tbps connection costs the same as for a 1 Mbps line. For less than the total amount that's now been spent on 5-4-3 competing networks with incomplete coverage, the UK could have built a 100% coverage national network as a common carrier, and then wholesaled the capacity to competing suppliers. Bunglement are now making the mistake with FTTP broadband

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: Our three weapons are…

        Shhh - next you will be suggesting that private companies benefit from public investment but should not have to contribute....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We are confident that this transaction will deliver significant benefits to our customers, the country and competition"

    The moment you read those words, you know it's bullshit. No company does something like this for the benefit 'of the customer'. Shareholders, owners - yes - but never the customers.

    3 are already hedging their bets it will go through.

    - Partnering with Amdocs (a well know Vodafone partner).

    - Moving everything they can to the cloud (regardless of whether its the best place or not).

    - Suffering because they ignored having a Corporate customer base, relying instead on trying to be hip and trendy with people who have the least disposable cash.

    - Spending an eye-watering amount of money on uncontrolled server sprawl in the cloud.

    Oh, and Vodafone also looking to move their systems to the cloud too. Coincidence?

    1. Annihilator

      “Oh, and Vodafone also looking to move their systems to the cloud too. Coincidence?“

      To be fair, it feels like every FTSE250 company is. Particularly the dinosaur ones who are just jumping on the bandwagon just as everyone else appears to be jumping off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think the Amdocs thing is more likely coming from:

      (a) previous 3UK directors being ejected following a failed IT transformation,

      (b) the current directors being the same as the 3 Ireland board and

      (c) 3 Ireland already having had Amdocs in place for some time.

  6. BebopWeBop

    And day two

    "From Day One, our [7 million joint] customers will enjoy faster, more reliable coverage over more of the country – and without paying a penny extra. We are confident that this transaction will deliver significant benefits to our customers, the country and competition, and we look forward to working closely with the CMA as they review our notification."

    Our 7 million locked in customers will find their levels of service quality go down (yes, it is possible, even from a low start) and their bills go up.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 is better than 2

    I look at Three and Vodafone and they’re basically haemorrhaging money. I genuinely can’t see them surviving on their own in the UK.

    I suspect the main secretive push to the CMA will be not to think of this as a reduction from 4 to 3 telcos, more an avoidance of a reduction from 4 to 2.

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