Competitors of BT and EE are preparing to challenge the newly merged business by launching new services as completion of the takeover edges closer.
The acquisition has forced a number of brands to enter markets in which they were not present previously, with Vodafone and Sky among those rolling out services in 2016 to compete with the new business.
Vodafone plans to challenge BT by bringing its TV service to market in this quarter, a move that is expected to involve bundled service packages. As well as preparing its range of services, the brand has urged Ofcom to ‘force’ BT to provide competitive access to the infrastructure it manages – a long-running issue for the rivals of BT, the focus of which has now switched to the regulator’s market review next year as Ofcom has promised to assess BT’s service management division in it.
Speaking to Mobile about the brand’s 2016 plans, CEO Jeroen Hoencamp said that it hoped Ofcom would tackle BT head-on in the review: ‘Ofcom’s Digital Communications Review will shape the market in 2016 and beyond. Ofcom has a once-in-a-decade opportunity to force BT to bring about a step-change in competitive access to the fixed digital infrastructure and to transform the UK economy’
BT’s main rival in the TV space – Sky – will wait to enter the mobile fray, with the launch of its MVNO not anticipated until spring, a timeframe some industry insiders have suggested could be extended until the summer as the brand focuses on the launch of its new set-top box. After years of denying that it would enter the mobile market, the TV giant finally took the plunge, announcing in January last year that it had signed a multi-year MVNO agreement with O2.
CCS Insight’s Paolo Pescatore believes that despite its delay in going to market, Sky has all the ingredients to be a success in the mobile space: ‘Sky has been successful in moving into the home communications market, and we expect that to apply to mobile.
'Adding that service to its armoury makes it a big year for Sky. It has a base of more than 12 million households and with two to three people in each of those homes that represents a big opportunity. It has also recently launched a new set-top box, which may have delayed the mobile product. But the fact is it has all the assets to make it happen and be successful. There is also the opportunity for it to use mobile as an acquisition driver just as BT has done.
‘We thought last year would be a big year for multi-play service offerings, but really that was just when the moving and shaking was happening. 2016 will be the year that the widespread sale of these product combinations becomes a reality.’
The statutory deadline for the Competition and Markets Authority’s decision on the merger is 18 January. However, EE has been gearing up for the takeover by BT, recently announcing that CEO Olaf Swantee would be stepping down once the takeover was complete. He is set to be replaced by industry veteran Mark Allera.
Sky declined the opportunity to comment.