Comreg criticism of O2 buyout decision rejected by Three

UPC’s entry into the mobile market expected to be confirmed within weeks

Three Ireland chief executive Robert Finnegan confirmed that the first MVNO, believed to be with cable operator UPC, would be signed “within weeks”, before the takeover is completed.

Three Ireland chief executive Robert Finnegan confirmed that the first MVNO, believed to be with cable operator UPC, would be signed “within weeks”, before the takeover is completed.

 

The mobile operator Three Ireland has rejected strong criticism by Comreg, the communications regulator, of the decision yesterday by the European Commission to clear Three Ireland’s €850 million buyout of O2 Ireland.

Comreg said the competition remedies accepted by the commission were “insufficient, inadequate and ineffective”. It said it “respects the commission’s position as the decision-making body” but warned “significant negative consequences for Irish consumer welfare may result” because of the deal, first announced last June.

European competition authorities had been concerned that Three absorbing O2 reduced the number of network operators from four to three.

Comreg said it would release unredacted versions of the objections it submitted to the commission and promised to closely monitor the market.

Three, which is owned by the Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, dismissed Comreg’s concerns. “A market with three strong networks is a lot better than a dysfunctional four-player market,” it said.

Three and Hutchison agreed to three main competition remedies. Three will provide an MVNO network-piggybacking service to two new mobile companies; it will agree to sell one of them some spectrum; and it will extend a network-sharing agreement between O2 and Meteor.

UPC Three Ireland chief executive Robert Finnegan

confirmed that the first MVNO, believed to be with cable operator UPC, would be signed “within weeks”, before the takeover is completed. He said the overall deal is “good for competition” because it creates a strong competitor for current market leader Vodafone.

Both new MVNOs will be able to use up to 15 per cent each of 3/O2’s infrastructure, at a fixed price, incentivising them to add as many customers as possible.

Mr Finnegan yesterday reiterated that Three will invest about €300 million in its network following the deal.

He also said the takeover would be “a mixed bag” for jobs: “There is going to be duplication of roles in some areas, notably back-office functions. But it’s a massive job to roll out 4G further, so we’ll need staff for that, and there will also be opportunities at our contact centre.”