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UK mobile operators call for UK competition regulation

Rivals use watchdogs to annoy T-Orange as much as possible

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UK mobile operators, with the exception of T-Mobile and Orange, have called for the UK authorities to investigate the creation of T-Orange rather than trusting Brussels.

T-Mobile and Orange were hoping an EU-level investigation could wave the merger through smoothly, but everyone else wants to see as much investigation as possible, ideally both in Europe and the UK. This would be in the interests of customer service, of course - the fact that delaying the merger will cost T-Mobile and Orange dearly is besides the point.

The call to involve the UK regulator is hardly surprising: it's being backed by O2, Vodafone and 3, who all want to see every barrier raised customer concerns addressed before the merger, which was signed in November, goes ahead.

The operators are calling for the UK's Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading to get involved, though they'd be pleased if any other paperwork-generating body would like to have a shot, too.

The creation of T-Orange will reduce the number of mobile operators from five to four, and with 3 already merging its network operations with T-Mobile, that means four operators running over three separate networks in the UK: which one might imagine would still provide significant competition.

More concerning is the accumulation of radio spectrum into the hands of one player: T-Orange will have licences for twice the frequencies of the competition and that could be increasingly important for rolling out 4th-generation services.

So once the preliminary threats and accusations are over, we can expect some sort of deal to emerge whereby the new company gives up some spectrum holdings in return for being allowed to exist, but first we have to listen to the operators claiming to represent consumers while actually working out how best to serve their shareholders. ®

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