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BT and EE’s conscious coupling cautiously cleared by competition czars

BT and EE’s nuptials have been blessed by the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), clearing the way for the former’s £12.5bn takeover of the latter. 

The CMA has provisionally decided that the union should go ahead, declaring that it sees no scope for ‘substantial lessening of competition in any market in the UK,’ in the mobile and fixed-line broadband sectors. 

Naysayers have until 5pm, November 19 to raise their objections with the CMA or forever hold their peace. 

7 reasons why a BT bid for EE makes perfect senseJohn Wotton, chair of the CMA’s inquiry said: “We provisionally think that the retail mobile market in the UK, with 4 main mobile providers and a substantial number of smaller operators, is competitive. 

“As BT is a smaller operator in mobile, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition. By the same token, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition in the retail broadband market, where EE is only a minor player.” 

BT Mobile launched in March this year and uses EE’s signal to reach customers. EE is the fifth biggest ISP in the UK by subscriber size, with just under 1 million subscribers, whereas BT has over 7 million – already comfortably ahead of the nearest competitor Sky

The merger of the two companies would strengthen BT’s already healthy lead on the rest of the UK consumer ISP pack in terms of consumer size and by adding EE’s mobile network to its retinue, would see BT become the UK’s biggest mobile provider. 

BT and EE’s chief execs were unsurprisingly happy about the CMA’s decision. BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “We’re pleased that the CMA has provisionally approved BT’s acquisition of EE. The combined BT and EE will be good for the UK, providing investment and ensuring consumers and businesses can benefit from further innovation in a highly competitive market”.

EE WiFi Calling: Everything you need to knowEE’s trials of 4G voice calls (VoLTE, Voice over LTE, to use the industry term) and WiFi Calling will undoubtedly be useful in helping BT improving coverage in customer’s homes with an ‘inside out’ network; this will see BT Home Hubs essentially double as mini mobile masts, giving folks a boost in coverage when their in the home instead of on the regular mobile network. 

BT’s acquisition of EE could also see rollout of signal in rural areas accelerated. EE’s been busy setting up over a thousand microcells across the country which can be used to quickly plug signal blackspots without having to set up new masts. 

EE’s trials of 4G voice calls on the 800MHz band of the airwaves – which is better suited to reaching scattered, remote communities – would also see BT better able to plug rural not spots, although details of these trials have yet to be made public. 

Exactly what the merger will mean for consumers isn’t yet clear. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said that ‘a new combined company’ would be created that would benefit ‘both British consumers and businesses’ but declined to offer any more details. 

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