back to article Vodafone and Three's UK merger hits regulatory roadblock

Britain's competition regulator is kicking off a deeper investigation into the potential impact caused by the merger of Vodafone and Three in the UK after neither resolved previously expressed concerns. Toward the end of last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that the alliance could result in increased …

  1. UCAP Silver badge

    I've been with Three for over 15 years having moved from Vodafone due to their crap service (at least in my semi-rural area). However recently I have been seeing a steady decline in the service provided by Three, including heavily degrade signal strength even though I have line of sight to the transmission station. Three's response to my complaints has been less than helpful, even suggesting at one point that I should move house to get a better service, my response to that is to look at changing to a different provider. If Three and Vodafone do merge then this will only expedite this process.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      I've recently switched from Three to Vodafone:

      1) Neither provide a useable service where I live (rural village with 200+ homes, with no working service from any of the providers).

      2) Three service in the local towns is useless - you may get a signal, but often virtually no data over it.

      3) Three service when travelling (North East) is virtually useless - lots of places with no signal at all, and others similar to 2.

      4) Vodafone at least seems to provide a working services when I'm away from home.

      5) Vodafone WiFi calling is much more robust - that from Three often dropped for hours at a time.

      Three's billing is also "amusing" - since I left I have received monthly invoices (two copies by email) and SMS notifications for a sum of £0.00. These reminded me to cancel the DD, so I also then got a notification (2 x email, 2 x SMS) to say they will charge £5 a month for not being on DD (looking forward to the demand for £5 for not being able to collect £0).

  2. Bebu Silver badge

    "Unions aren't nearly so keen on the pair consummating the agreement"

    Presumably the unions understand that the employees as the honeymooning couple are going to get a good seeing to.

    I assume both BT and Virgin in the UK are vertically integrated telcos and compete at the retail level against their wholesale customers. In hindsight mandating the of divorce these two (or more?) layers might have resulted a better outcome for all customers and the nation.

    NZ I think split their monopoly telco (Telecom NZ?) in two - the wholesale side I think is Spark with a number of retailers. NZ is said to have a much better and more uniform broadband service than Australia (not difficult that.)

    Like the UK, Australia has the old monopoly telco Telstra, the original US Cable&Wireless competitor Optus (later sold to Singtel) and Vodafone plus a host of resellers and mobile virtual network providers.

    Wholesale wired services are provided by a (currently) state owned national broadband network (NBN) and this whole shemozzle pleases no one and seriously pisses off most customers.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Unions aren't nearly so keen on the pair consummating the agreement"

      While I think geography could be used as argument to explain differences between coverage between Australia and New Zealand, I think your fundamental point that the management of the infrastructure should be separated from the sale of services based on the infrastructure has been largely considered to be correct: whether for telecommunications, electricity, water or transport. The devil is, of course, in the details because if the management is allowed to be too conservative, it will be, which means it won't necessarily invest in innovation, or even maintenance if it thinks it can just get fat off the fees from the companies wanting to use the infrastructure. So, apart from preventing vertical integration, you'll still need regulators that keep both sides on their toes but should also everyone a decent slice of the cake. And, you shouldn't be afraid of opening things up to competition when new technologies come along.

    2. ARGO

      Re: "Unions aren't nearly so keen on the pair consummating the agreement"

      Voda UK are heavily unionised, Three UK don't have any union recognition.

      And Voda UK have double the number of employees to deliver basically the same service.

      I can see why their unions might be concerned.

      (though accusing Three employees of being Chinese spies isn't going to do much for recruitment of members there)

  3. druck Silver badge

    Obviously important news

    I was surprised walking through town at lunchtime when my 10 years old asked why the Vodafone shop had not been renamed Vodafone Three yet. I 'm not sure how he knew about the merger, as his entire world seems to consist of playing Roblox or Minecraft, and I doubt it was from his 8 year old brother who spends 100% of this time watching game playing videos on YouTube.

    P.S. Just tore him away from the computer to ask, and he says he heard in it on breakfast news, I said we didn't watch that today, but he said "oh, it was weeks ago" - mind like a steel trap that one, still hasn't forgotten when I dropped him as a toddler.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      "dropped him as a toddler"

      Reminds me of when mine were young and I used to "drop" on of them deliberately - she used to sit on my knees facing me with me holding her hands, and then "fall off" backwards and land on her feet.

      I was once bullied into going to a Sure Start centre "to meet other dads". I took her with me and she did the "falling off" thing - to screams of "catch the baby" from the mothers and health-care providers who were there. I was not invited back ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "dropped him as a toddler"

        Same with our grandchildren - apart from the group thing.

        But for some reason, people take a dim view if your grip slips at a critical moment. The cafe went VERY quiet for a few moments.

  4. David 132 Silver badge

    Honestly, the regulator is worrying unnecessarily.

    No merger in the entire history of such things has ever resulted in increased prices, decreased customer choice, crappier service, redundancies and huge bonuses paid to management.

    (Note icon.)

  5. Screwed

    5G, 3G, 2G

    I live in an area with somewhat, or very, patchy coverage on all networks, on 3G, 4G and 5G. I am currently on Three while partner is on EE. (She had to move from Vodafone because their network is so awful here.)

    This means that most of the time, at least one of us has a signal. Which is helpful.

    At the end of this year, Three will have terminated all 3G coverage but still has virtually no 5G in the whole county and beyond. O2 and Vodafone have no 5G at all. While EE has at least got some coverage in the more populated areas - though still with many gaps.

    Yet the websites of all these networks are pushing 5G phones. We are being told the network

    Apparently we will enjoy a better network experience with greater coverage and reliability at no extra cost. I can't see why we will see any improvement at all.

    Their claim:

    "MergeCo will achieve this whilst also reducing energy consumption by accelerating the installation of energy efficient 5G equipment and replacing less power-efficient 2G and 3G systems."

    is also junk as 3G will be turned off by the time the merger happens (by end of 2024) and Vodafone 2G will only exist for utility meters. (And Three does not have any 2G.)


    No faith

    As a new customer to Three mobile and having worked in the industry I view this proposed link up as real bad news.

    It will not benefit the users and only benefit corporate greed, having also been a customer of the absolutely awful Virgin broadband I would hate to see Three join the bad club which includes Vodafone.

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