The UK’s competition regulator says it fears the merger of Telefonica’s O2 with Liberty Global’s Virgin Media will push up prices and worsen 5G connectivity for the new company’s rivals.
The Competition and Markets Authority has published an ‘Issues Statement’ that covers the next phase of its enquiry.
This includes O2’s supply of wholesale mobile services to companies who run mobile virtual networks (MVNOs), particularly those who offer consumers packages of products including mobile, fixed line telephony, broadband and pay-TV (fixed-MVNOs), such as Sky. It also plans to look at Virgin’s supply of wholesale leased lines to mobile network operators (MNOs). These enable these operators to connect key parts of their network and are essential for the functioning of the mobile phone network and also important to the development of 5G.
In a joint statement, Liberty Global and Telefónica said: “Our view remains that this transaction is pro-competitive and we continue to expect [it to close] around the middle of this year.”
In December, the CMA referred the proposed merger of Liberty Global’s Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile with Telefonica’s O2 for an in-depth Phase 2 investigation.
It followed a request from the two companies that the regulator undertake a fast track process.