So, if Orange
and T-Mobile were hoping they could slide their merger under the radar of their
operator rivals, they must be feeling somewhat disappointed this week.
As the two sweethearts went to Brussels this week to ask the EU
Commission to bless their merger, Vodafone, 3 and O2 noisily wheeled out their big guns, making it very clear they will not accept this deal without a fight.
The three operators have two key demands.
The first is that the EU Commission must refer the investigation of the
proposed merger to the UK’s
Office of Fair Trading (OFT), to protect the interests of UK consumers.
Their second is that, since the merged entity will get more than its fair share of 1800MHz spectrum, it must give up some of its spectrum if the deal goes ahead.
Industry experts are not
surprised by the level of opposition to the merger. Eddie Murphy at Priory Consulting warns that
the merger would drive 'a coach and horses' through the original spectral
agreement and give the merged entity ‘a significant spectral advantage'.
As part of the approval process, the EU Commission will now consult with interested UK parties, including of course, the OFT, OFCOM
operators and others.
Orange and T-Mobile will be hoping for a
quick decision from the EU Commission in favour of the merger. In the
event that the approval is left to the EU Commission and nobody puts a large
spanner in the works, it could take as little as 25 working days. Just in time
for the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona
- a perfect venue for a T-Orange celebration.
the other hand, T-Mobile and Orange execs may be
left crying into their champagne at Barcelona,
if rivals get their way and the OFT gets to investigate the deal.
nail-biting delay would ensue and more than a little 1800MHz spectrum will be
left hanging in the balance.