The CEO of Vodafone’s UK business has warned that any delay from the country’s competition watchdog concerning its upcoming merger with Three could put the development of the country's entire 5G network development at risk.
Speaking to The Times, Ahmed Essam said Vodafone “won’t be able to invest as much and we won’t be able to deliver the 5G ambition that’s coming in the wireless infrastructure strategy from the government.”
Now, Essam is saying that without the proposed merger with Three, that ambition may never bear fruit.
“The UK doesn’t rank well in terms of 5G across Europe,” Essam was cited, further saying that the merger “brings the scale” that 5G infrastructure needs.
“But if it doesn’t happen, those targets probably won’t be met, by Vodafone at least,” he concluded.
Earlier this year, the UK government published its Wireless Infrastructure Strategy, a strategic document that outlines, among other things, the country’s ambition to provide standalone 5G coverage across the country by the end of the decade.
Vodafone and Three officially announced plans to merge in April 2023, with the move expected to hugely shake up the UK mobile market.
The deal is currently subject to approval from the Competition and Markets Authority, which is currently looking deeper into the proposed deal.
City AM reminds that seven years ago, Three tried to merge with O2, in a deal which was stopped by the CMA. In a statement given to The Times, a government representative said: “We welcome investment where it supports growth and jobs, providing that such investments also meet regulatory requirements.”
In a statement, Vodafone and CK Hutchinson, the owner of Three UK, confirmed a deal that should see the formation of a new £15bn-valued telco giant and, "create one of Europe's leading 5G networks."
Vodafone is set to be the slight majority owner of the new combined group, known for now as MergeCo, controlling 51%, with CK Hutchinson keeping the remaining 49%.
MergeCo hopes to deliver up to £5 billion per year in UK economic benefit by 2030, supporting the digital transformation for schools, hospitals and businesses, with its standalone 5G network will cover every school and hospital in the UK by 2030, helping deliver the Government’s stretch ambition as set out in the Wireless Infrastructure Strategy.
MergeCo also intends to invest over £6 billion in the first five years, and £11 billion over a ten year plan, to create a best-in-class 5G network, supporting between 8,000 and 12,000 new jobs in the wider economy.
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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.