It’s been months since we first heard that T-Mobile and Orange wanted to get together and have babies, but since the news first broke the networks have been thrashing out deals in order to satisfy everyone that world domination is not their ultimate plan.
The merger has finally been given the nod by the European Commission. Over in Brussels, they’ve been debating whether or not to give the deal the their blessing, given that the business would become the UK’s largest mobile phone company with around 30 million customers – overtaking O2 as the country’s largest network.
The last-minute deal which quieted the commission’s concerns was all to do with the future of 3, the UK’s smallest network. The commission had concerns that the merger would weaken 3 in the UK – or even eliminate it entirely, reducing competition in the mobile phone arena to virtually none. The latest deal sees 3 getting access to 3,000 more mast sites across the UK, giving it a larger and more robust 3G network.
Control of too much wireless spectrum has also been cited as a major obstacle to the merger, but the mobile phone super-group has agreed to hand back a quarter of the spectrum that it would hold as a merged company. This frees up more space for other companies to offer super-fast wireless broadband services.
It’s not the end of the wait for the two mobile phone giants, however. Vodafone and O2 may yet challenge Orange and T-Mobile’s plans, and the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is also yet to give the merger the go ahead. The OFT wants to run its own investigation into the deal, but given that the European Commission has satisfied its concerns permission may not be granted.
With obstacles still to overcome, it remains to be seen what direct effects the merger will have on mobile phone customers in the UK; we’ve contacted T-Mobile, Orange and 3 for their thoughts but none have commented as yet. In the meantime, we can get back to debating what the new network should be named.