The Federation of Communication Services (FCS) has written to its members asking for feedback on the proposed merger between BT and mobile operator EE. The FCS has already had enough members expressing concern over the merger to prompt it to canvas its entire membership.
The confirmation that Hutchinson Whampoa (the owner of Three UK) has made a formal declaration of its intent to buy Telefonica UK (O2) has compounded the situation around access to 4G connectivity for UK businesses. The FCS notes that: “BT’s own MVNO is unique, as far as we are aware, at being able to offer its customers 4G access – something which is not available to any of EE’s other wholesale MVNO customers”.
In the letter to members, the FCS said: “FCS has already received more than enough feedback already from members to make us nervous. So nervous, in fact, that we are having a preliminary discussion with the Competition and Mergers Authority (CMA) case team this afternoon (30 March), and have already teed up a meeting with the head of competition (Jonathan Oxley) at Ofcom for shortly after Easter (9 April).”
The FCS went on to say: “Most of the inputs so far have come from companies with a strong interest in mobiles, and particularly from MVNO operators. But we see the risk of everything from cross-subsidised service bundles between differently-regulated platforms to the creation of a new monopoly in call handling and LTE connectivity for Britain’s emergency services.”
As a result, the FCS wants to know what its members in the fixed and mobile radio user community think of the merger and what concerns they may have over the possible impact on their businesses.
Among the questions the FCS would like answers to are: ‘What would you expect FCS to be saying to CMA, Ofcom and UK and EU policy-makers? Should we be opposing the merger at all costs?
‘Or should we be pushing for heavyweight ‘remedies’ like structural separation of Openreach and the high-speed backbone for fixed line comms and the dismantling of the current aggregator model in favour of genuine, transparent open wholesale access to the mobile networks?’