Yes, unsurprising, and without any backhanders whatsoever, the, Competition and Markets Authority has rubber-stamped the £12.5bn takeover of EE by BT. The group will now grab EE and create a huge quad-play provider offering home phone, home broadband, TV and mobile solutions. Expect to see more adverts, more packaged deals and more utterly terrible customer service.
BT have already started selling mobile deals through an MVNO agreement with EE but this go-ahead to buy the entire network will give the company even more power. It’ll combine the UK’s largest fixed-line business with the largest mobile telecoms business.
Announcing the clearance, the Authority stated that..
The evidence does not show that this merger is likely to cause significant harm to competition or the interests of consumers.
You may or may not have a different opinion on that, so do let us know in the comments. Don’t forget, if the Hutchison 3G deal with O2 goes through then your future mobile network choices could be Three, Vodafone or BT. There’ll still be MVNO’s of course (such as giffgaff, FreedomPop, TalkTalk etc) but the amount of networks that have masts and infrastructure will probably shrink.
BT want to accelerate their “mobile strategy” and combine the EE 4G network with the BT fixed infrastructure for “better cost and revenue synergies”.
Whether the BT Openreach operation will be split out remains to be seen. Most ISPs in the UK are already familiar with the “service” received from BT Openreach, and I’m worried that MVNO operators using the new BT / EE mobile network may soon receive the same level of “service” there too. As an example, Virgin Mobile use EE currently, and Virgin are a direct competitor of BT for home phone, home broadband and TV. Indeed, the report spots this and states that BT could just refuse to supply Virgin. If that happens then….
that .. MVNO would still be likely to secure wholesale mobile services from another (network) but this could be at a higher price or a lower quality. Given the limited past bidding data available and the non-transparent nature of the competition, the scale of this harm was not possible to quantify.
In other words, “tough”. It seems that, because they didn’t find out how much O2, Vodafone or Three would charge Virgin Mobile, they couldn’t see if they’d be negatively impacted. Although the report says that BT’s “reputation as a host” would be damaged if they provided poor service to Virgin Mobile, it seems to signify that it’s perfectly fine for BT to kick them out of the door and refuse to provide service.
EE has, in the great scheme of things, only just gobbled up T-Mobile and Orange, now customers will see further changes. As for whether EE will be rebranded as BT, currently the firm is stating that EE will become “a separate line of business within BT”, but I believe this’ll change in time as the website and all those high-street stores would be a great advert for BT TV, home broadband and home phone products. Diluting and confusing customers with a big “EE” logo on a shop selling lots of BT products (which they invariably will) makes no sense in the long term, so I’m betting that these will all get changed.