CMA warns Vodafone/Three merger could leave consumers and businesses worse off

The Competitions and Markets Authority has completed phase one of its investigation into the proposed merger between Three and Vodafone – and has warned the move could lead to higher prices.

Phase one investigation into the potential impacts of the merger between two of the UK’s four operators was launched in January. The proposed deal was announced in June last year, and would create a new joint venture bringing their 27 million combined customers under a new operator.

James Gray, MVNO expert and strategist, to run three exclusive masterclasses at MVNO World Congress this June

James Gray, MVNO expert and strategist, and founder of global telecoms consultancy Graystone Strategy, has announced today that he will run three exclusive masterclasses at MVNO World Congress this June.

Based on the most pressing topics for MVNOs, the sessions will cover best practice for engaging a host operator, how MVNOs can secure a wholesale agreement that runs as a true partnership, and the best models to use for proposition development.

The great telecom tower sell-off

Telecommunications infrastructure is a busy sector, with more mergers and acquisitions than ever. At the same time, mobile operators are selling off assets, and investment firms are keen to invest heavily in those assets.

It’s something that has fascinated us at DCD, and something we have covered at great length.

Big-name telecom companies such as Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone have completed deals to sell tower assets in the past 12 months, generating billions of dollars in capital as a result.

Vodafone and CK Hutchison agree UK mobile merger

Vodafone and Three-owner CK Hutchison have warned that crucial investment in 5G mobile networks would be curtailed unless regulators allow them to merge to create the UK’s largest operator.
The plan, announced on Wednesday, will create a mobile network with 28mn customers that would leapfrog EE as the UK’s largest mobile group. It will also reduce the number of networks in the UK from four to three, and will face a battle for regulatory approval given the risk of less choice and higher prices for consumers.

Industry weighs in on imminent Vodafone/Three merger

Capacity speaks to industry experts on how the Vodafone/Three deal would affect the UK market and how likely it is to be approved.

Following a Reuters report that a formal announcement on merger plans between Vodafone and Three (CK Hutchinson) is expected in the coming days, the telecoms industry has been awash with debate as to the merits of a tie up. There is also speculation around how receptive the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would be.

Vodafone and Three merger faces scrutiny from competition regulators

LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) – It has taken months of tortuous negotiations for Vodafone (VOD.L) and CK Hutchison (0001.HK) to agree a deal to create Britain’s biggest mobile operator, but from a regulatory standpoint the hard work is only just beginning.

The $19 billion tie-up will be scrutinised by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority, the antitrust regulator which made global headlines in April when it blocked Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard.

Vodafone and Three agree to £15bn UK merger

Vodafone and Three have agreed to a £15 billion ($19bn) merger, to create the UK’s biggest mobile operator, with 27 million combined subscribers.

First announced in October, the merger will give Vodafone a 51 percent majority stake of the combined entity, currently labelled as “MergeCo” , with CK Hutchison’s Three holding the remaining 49 percent.

Industry weighs in on imminent Vodafone/Three merger

Capacity speaks to industry experts on how the Vodafone/Three deal would affect the UK market and how likely it is to be approved.

Following a Reuters report that a formal announcement on merger plans between Vodafone and Three (CK Hutchinson) is expected in the coming days, the telecoms industry has been awash with debate as to the merits of a tie up. There is also speculation around how receptive the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) would be.

The merger has been rumoured for a long time; with reports a deal could be worth around £15 billion. Vodafone are expected to own 51% of the combined entity while CK Hutchison will take a 49% stake in the company.

Why the telecoms industry might struggle more than most in 2023

The industry faces the same economic pressures as any other, but concerns around 5G rollout and 3G sunsetting mean the heat is being turned up

There’s little doubt the challenges the UK and other nations have faced in 2022 are continuing into 2023, and there’s every likelihood that they’ll extend into 2024 too. Supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19 has continued, and we face economic uncertainty due to issues with energy supply and cost and wider inflationary pressures. Both businesses and consumers are watching spending. The telecoms industry faces these pressures too, and more, knowing there’s little or nothing they can do about them.

The UK’s next big telco merger – Vodafone and Three?

Will four become three in the UK? Advanced talks between Vodafone and Three have got the industry talking about a potential merger and its chances of success.

The telecoms market loves to consolidate.

We can see it in Europe, where Orange and MásMóvil are set to combine in Spain, and in South Africa where MTN and Rain have been tussling over a merger deal with Telkom, with the former recently pulling out of talks.

And we saw T-Mobile merge with Sprint in 2020, in a bid to compete with AT&T and Verizon in the US.

How will the proposed merger of Three UK and Vodafone impact MVNOs?

There are many aspects MVNOs should consider now, rather than waiting until the deal is approved.

When Vodafone confirmed it was in talks to create a joint venture with Three UK, it put to bed weeks of speculation. Though market consolidation has been on the cards for a while, there’s still a lot that needs to happen to gain approval from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Ofcom.

Vodafone and Three merger plan: This could go one of two ways

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will have its say on whether becoming the biggest network operator in the UK is good for consumers (see below), and whether it creates a player with significant market power. It could fall two ways, says James Gray, managing director of Graystone Strategy.

Vodafone and Three merger- analysis from James Gray

The two companies are set to merge because each network cannot solely recover the cost of setting up 5G networks

Vodafone and Three have recently announced that a potential merger could go ahead as soon as the end of this year.

Managing director of consultancy firm Graystone Strategy, James Gray, has given his thoughts on what the joint venture could mean for consumers and the companies involved.

Three wants to merge its way to 5G dominance

Can there be such a thing as too much competition? Having four major mobile networks might be one too many for the UK, if Three CEO Robert Finnegan is to be believed. In a recent financial results announcement, he characterised the UK market as “dysfunctional”. Why? Because the fierce competition between networks is making it harder to roll out 5G and improve Britain’s mobile infrastructure.


Creating the right customer proposition

MVNO Nation speak to James Gray, Managing Director at Graystone Strategy about the key steps to creating a killer customer proposition for MVNOs.


Watch this video interview to learn about:

  • What is the biggest challenge for most companies to successfully launch?

  • What are the key steps in creating a strong customer proposition that will enable a business to differentiate?

  • How important is this customer segmentation research in delivering an effective marketing campaign rollout?

  • Could you give us an example of a well-setup proposition you’ve seen and what results it delivered? Can you name MVNOs that are doing it well in your opinion.

  • What are the key metrics you would use to measure the success of a proposition and its rollout?

Are private networks the new MVNO opportunity

The telecoms industry is fast paced and there is always an emerging trend or technology stealing the limelight. Right now, it’s 5G and all that it brings. Shiny phones and applications make the headlines, but that doesn’t mean other 5G related technologies and applications are any less exciting. Indeed, if you are MVNO then 5G enabled private networks could very well be a shot in the arm for your business.


But what is a private network? They are generally networks created specifically for a single organisation operating on a vast area. Think ports, airports, power stations, manufacturers, utilities, universities and agriculture.

Why the B2B market is ripe for MVNOs

In previous blogs we’ve spoken about the changing telecoms environment, the impacts that the smart home will have on consumer preferences and the future of the MVNO market.


However, one stone we’ve yet to turn over in detail is that of the opportunity in B2B and why some MVNOs could diversify and capitalise on the solutions 5G will enable.

5G use cases that MVNOs should consider

Everyone is talking about the opportunities that 5G will deliver for MVNOs but what exactly are they and is there a killer app?


I hate to disappoint but the honest answer is that there is no killer app yet. However, there is a lot of potential and it would be prudent to spend time assessing the options and developing a mid-term strategy.


For consumers we’ll see an abundance of applications come through once we start to see handsets on the market. They will be geared to doing more of what you love to do now only faster. In the immediate future, 5G will be all about how fast we can get content ie less streaming and more ‘super-fast’ downloading. It means content will be instant.

Analysts signal possible Vodafone and Three merger

Vodafone are looking to merge with big UK operators and have even spoke about merging in other European countries

Vodafone has reportedly been in talks with other telecoms companies over potential consolidation, with Three UK a possible target.

Telecoms consultant James Gray, who has worked in the industry for more than 25 years, says he isn’t surprised that Vodafone could consolidate due to its history of acquisitions.

Does 5G Have a Killer App Yet?

5G rollouts continue at pace around the world. The headlines tend to focus on the shiny consumer handset that are being launched and the different countries where 5G is being switched on by operators.

Sifting through the headlines, it’s easy to think there is pent up demand for 5G. Yet, the reality is a bit different. That’s largely because there is no killer app yet. There are plenty of interesting examples from Asia where VR applications are being used to give people more immersive experiences, but ideas like this have yet to catch on over here.

MVNOs and operators: an evolving market

As Europe’s mobile industry evolves, so too the MVNO market changes shape, with an increased need for players to ascend the value chain in the digital age. Gareth Willmer explores the emerging trends, opportunities and challenges for both MVNOs and their operator partners

Throughout its history, the MVNO market has seen fluctuating fortunes. It has provided a source of differentiation and competition, but at the same time has faced challenges including squeezed margins and gaining the right conditions to thrive on the networks of mobile operators.

The Canadian MVNO Market – James Gray, Managing Director, Graystone Strategy periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece James Gray, Managing Director, Graystone Strategy shares his thoughts on why dotmobile being awarded a full MVNO licence in Canada doesn’t mean the MVNO floodgates have opened.

dotmobile has been awarded a full MVNO licence in Canada. It’s made headlines around the world in because it’s a hard won first. It first proposed an MVNO in September 2019 and gone on to achieve something no other brand in Canada has. The reasons for which are complex.

The channel opportunity around 5G

Who knew that increasing the number in front of “G” from “4” to “5” would generate such excitement? According to some pundits, 5G “will supercharge business”. Can anyone remember if the move from 3G to 4G merited such attention?

Well, back in May 2012, in an article headlined 4G internet: Will it revolutionise the internet?, HuffPost reported: “The introduction of 4G internet could result in the safeguarding of thousands of jobs, £5.5bn investment in the UK and could save workers 37 million hours a year, according to group 4G Britain.”

Bricks-to-clicks evolution accelerates as online retailers swallow high street brands

Clothing retailer Boohoo has acquired all of the intellectual property assets of Debenhams, including customer data and selected contracts, for £55m. The 243-year-old department store filed for administration twice in 12 months, the second time during the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Asos will pay £295m for four brands from collapsed retail group Arcadia – Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT. However, the deal does not include the physical shops. Sir Philip Green’s failed empire entered administration in November last year, putting 13,000 jobs across about 450 stores at risk.

Is there still a place for Topshop on the UK’s high streets?

Topshop’s parent company Arcadia Group grabbed headlines when it went into administration in November, placing thousands of jobs at risk. With the brand’s Oxford Circus Street flagship now up for sale. Retail Gazette looks at whether the British fashion stalwart can make a comeback.

Ofcom’s unlocked handsets ruling: good for users, but is it too inflexible?

Decision on handset unlocking seen as progressive, but some say users will get too much freedom

Ofcom’s ruling that mobile phone providers must no longer sell locked handsets to consumers from December 2021 has been hailed as a progressive step for the UK market.

The ruling affects EE, Vodafone and Tesco Mobile, with players such as O2, Three and Virgin Mobile already voluntarily implementing the sale of unlocked handsets in recent years.

Industry experts and analysts broadly agree that the move provides further favour for consumers as part of Ofcom’s drive to be a progressive regulator, allowing for choice, and forcing the networks to engage in competitive pricing and proactive efforts to maintain strong customer service.

What is 5G?

Get up to speed – everything you need to know about 5G

Ready to say hello to faster speeds and goodbye to lagging? The next-generation network is on its way. Find out everything you need to know about 5G, including how it’s different, when you can get it and how it works abroad.

In this guide we’ll also debunk myths around the dangers of 5G, discuss what else it can be used for and explore how it could impact our lives in the future.

Speakers’ Corner: mobile retailers and the last 100 days until Christmas

With tighter covid restrictions in place, the next 100 days will be the toughest ever for retailers. But Graystone Strategy’s Peter Scott says it’s an opportunity

The next 100 days are always the busiest and most exciting in the retail calendar. A time when gifting mobiles and devices is top of people’s lists. But this year will be the bleakest we’ve known for a very long time. The likelihood of further lockdowns, regional restrictions and a challenging economic and employment outlook add incomprehensible pressures.

Mobile News spoke to industry expert James Gray about what the latest events mean for UK mobile

It’s been a seismic month for operators and retailers, with a one-two punch of events set to shake up the sector.

First, supermarket retailer Asda unexpectedly revealed that it would transfer its Asda Mobile MVNO from EE to Vodafone, returning to the telco with which it launched the service in 2007  and subsequently left in 2014.

Episode 19 – SoftBank sells mobile division stock worth $12.5 billion; Intelsat to acquire Gogo; Zayo names new MD; and everything about 6G

This episode features editor-in-chief Joao Marques Lima, editor-at-large Alan Burkitt-Gray, deputy editor Melanie Mingas and senior reporters Abigail Opiah and Natalie Bannerman.

In this episode, SoftBank  sells mobile division stock worth $12.5 billion; Intelsat enters into a definitive agreement to acquire Gogo; Zayo names its new managing director; Rack Centre announced a $100 million investment in Nigeria; and Georgia’s demands to reverse an acquisition.

Also in this episode, the team talks 6G and special guest  James Gray, managing director of Graystone Strategies, shares his outlook for market consolidation over the coming months.

How can Ann Summers avoid a similar fate to Victoria’s Secret?

Founded in 1970, seven years before US rival Victoria’s Secret, Ann Summers has expanded its presence on the high street but CEO Jacqueline Gold recently said the retailer may opt for a CVA to stay afloat. What steps must it take to avoid a similar downfall to its rival from across the pond?

What the shift of small retailers to online means for the sector

During lockdown, swathes of retailers turned to online as shops were forced shut. Retail Gazette found out how smaller, independent retailers opted for a platform on online marketplaces to adapt and to survive this new climate – especially as footfall continues to remain low.

Employment in retail during Covid-19

With over four million retail jobs currently at risk of permanent layoffs, temporary furloughs, and reductions in hours or pay, it begs the question: is employment in retail an attractive proposition during Covid-19?

Why automation will play a key role in the future of retail

Retailers around the world found technological solutions to help them navigate the Covid-19 pandemic – and these agile answers will give them an advantage in the future

As Britain cautiously emerges from coronavirus lockdown, automation technology is proving crucial to retailers hoping to tempt customers to spend again, according to retail experts.

Intu: What went wrong?

Intu fell into administration last week after crunch talks with its lenders were unsuccessful. The shopping centre owner had been struggling prior to the coronavirus pandemic, with large debts and a loss of value in shares. Retail Gazette finds out where it all went wrong.

Can Next or M&S turn Victoria’s Secret around?

Next and Marks & Spencer recently expressed interest in taking on the UK operations of Victoria’s Secret, which collapsed last month. Retail Gazette finds out how the US lingerie retailer can be turned around by the British retail giants, should they end up buying it out of administration.

Speaker’s corner: the winners and losers in the Virgin-O2 merger

The announcement that Virgin Media and O2 plan to merge will have come as a surprise to many in the market, not least because six months earlier Virgin had struck a deal with Vodafone. If it goes ahead, it will really disrupt the industry and give competitors cause for concern.

Making 5G Pay

Much is said about the potential for 5G and the doors it will open for new opportunities. However, the real challenge in Africa is going to be how to monetise this exciting new technology.

Cost And Coverage Could Make 5G-Connected Ambulance Infeasible

While excitement for 5G, the fifth generation of cellular network technology, might be in the air for paramedics across the country following BT Enterprise’s demonstration last week, some experts think it could be premature.

The demonstration, which took place at the University Hospital in Birmingham, involved an acting emergency department consultant advising a paramedic who was situated just under two miles away in a 5G connected ambulance. Using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets, the consultant gave information on the “patient” directly to the paramedic, saving them travelling to the A&E department.

How MVNOs can stand out in a crowded market

The MVNO space is becoming crowded, particularly in the UK. Established brands such as Tesco and Virgin continue to gain customers, while major players such as Sky are also competing for opportunities to grab share.

But at the same time, mobile operators across the globe are increasingly launching ‘sub-brands’ that directly compete with MVNOs and target specific segments – such as Vodafone’s VOXI and Three’s SMARTY. So, how can MVNOs stand out?

Roaming for MVNOs: Opportunities and strategies

The ‘roam like at home’ regulation has been a boon for European consumers, who can now use their phones without extra charges when visiting EU countries. But it poses challenges for MVNOs, which must pay wholesale rates in order for their customers to roam. Making things worse, MVNOs can’t claw back this cash through reciprocal charges like the mobile operators do, because they don’t receive any inbound roaming traffic.

MVNOs can charge customers for roaming in locations outside the EU. However, they cannot rely on this alone as a revenue stream: MVNOs would be competing with mobile operators such as Three UK, which are offering free roaming in countries including the US and Australia, as well as the EU.

Your Thoughts: Netflix Vs TV

Video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have now been reported to have more subscribers than traditional pay-per-view TV services in the UK, according to new figures released by Ofcom. This of course also applies on a global scale, in the US and beyond.

This week Finance Monthly asked experts in the media industry, communications sector and markets experts what they thought of the proliferation of online streaming services and their impact on traditional TV.

How 5G will revolutionise the MVNO market

5G networks will create new business models for operators and MVNOs. How can they take advantage? Kate O’Flaherty talked to a few industry insiders to find out.

Soon-to-launch 5G is about to transform the business models of mobile operators and MVNOs. According to experts, this will see capabilities such as network slicing allowing MNVOs to run ‘mini networks’ for customers in specific sectors.

Unlike its predecessors 3G and 4G, the technology is not just about faster speeds. Based on a virtualised infrastructure, 5G offers the ability to ‘slice’ the network and assign each part a specific quality of service to fit a use case – such as low latency for connected cars.

Embracing a new type of MVNO periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Freelance Technology Journalist Kate O’Flaherty explores how AppVNOs are taking the market by storm. What are the opportunities and challenges in this area?

A new type of MVNO is entering the market. Known as the ‘AppVNO’, its unique selling point is the ability to make calls and send texts via an app using an additional mobile number. In a similar way to Skype, appVNOs can be used for free because they mostly take advantage of Wi-Fi rather than the cellular network.

Seven trends to expect at Mobile World Congress 2018

5G and its associated use cases are expected to take centre stage in Barcelona, while discussions will also turn to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to overhaul network management and customer service.

Mobile World Congress (MWC), the biggest mobile industry trade show in the world, is due to kick off in Barcelona in just a few days’ time. So, what are the key trends to watch out for at this year’s show?

MVNOs need to rethink segmentation or admit defeat

As Brexit negotiations rumble on, one thing is certain: skilled workers from Europe are leaving Britain. For MVNOs that have based their business model on a migratory workforce or a low cost proposition it’s a precarious time, writes James Gray, a director of Graystone Strategy.

To add to their woes, mobile operators like Vodafone have made the strategic decision that sub brands are more lucrative and a better way to stretch their brands into markets they wouldn’t usually attract. The operators are of course being canny and while they aren’t closing down all the MVNOs on their networks, they certainly aren’t rushing to forge new contracts with potential partners unless they really feel they are bringing incremental value and customers.

VOXI’s arrival shows how Vodafone is betting on segmentation to revitalise brand

The brand launched at the end of August, offering contract-free plans available only to under-25s.

Priced between £10 and £20 a month, the 30-day plans include zero-rated use of certain social media apps and unlimited calls, texts and picture messages.

As well as targeted offerings, VOXI uses advertising and customer service channels designed to appeal to younger consumers, including social media.

There won’t be a traditional TV advert, and though plans can be bought in Vodafone stores, the main sales channel is a dedicated new website.

‘Roam Like Home’: The End of Data Roaming Charges in Europe

Data roaming charges within the European Union are to become a thing of the past from June 15, however very few people are aware of the change that could save travelers hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

The European Commission (EC) has agreed to put an end to roaming charges across all EU countries. This means that travelers can call, text and use their mobile data at no extra cost, regardless of the EU country that they visit.

How Brexit will change the UK telecoms market

The extent to which the European telecoms market influences the UK market has been fairly evident recently, with major deals such as the Three-O2 merger being scuttled by EU regulators.

Holiday-makers may have felt the benefits of other EU-wide regulation this summer as international roaming charges were cut across the EU for the first time before they are phased out completely next year.

Data roaming charges in Europe are about to be completely wiped out

Massive data roaming charges picked up while you’re on holiday in Europe are about to become a thing of the past.
New legislation that comes into play next week are about to become a huge game changer that will help save British holidaymakers £1.3 billion a year.

‘Roam Like Home’, a new law passed by the EU, enables phone users to use their phone at no extra cost when they’re on holiday in Europe.

Roam Like Home: Threat or Opportunity? – Graystone Strategy

Today, Thursday 15 June, we’ll see a fundamental market change come into play when Roam like Home goes live across Europe. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such an imposition on industry pricing, and operators across Europe will nervously wait to see whether the billions of Euros consumers will save opens up a detrimental black hole in the company accounts.

Ireland’s latest mobile operator goes heavy on data – but light on iPhones

Today, Ireland’s newest mobile operator opens its doors for business. But how does iD, created by Dixons Carphone, compare to rival offerings? Is it here for the long run? Our technology editor looks through its plans and assesses whether it is worth signing up to as an alternative to Vodafone, Meteor, 3 Ireland and the rest

30m shades of Gray: how to set up a new mobile operator

This summer, The Carphone Warehouse will launch a new mobile operator in Ireland. Our technology editor talks to James Gray, the industry veteran who is setting it up.

Two years ago, it was losing €10m a year. But today, The Carphone Warehouse’s Irish operation is back in the black. And the retailer, which has almost 100 outlets here, is about to spend €30m on the launch of a new mobile operator for Ireland.

5G: Do consumers need another G?

Anyone who works in telecoms circles knows that 5G is on the horizon, with a promise to transform data speeds once again. And it is fast, no doubt about that. The University of Surrey, which is at the forefront of developing and understanding this technology, has achieved data speeds of one terabyte per second. Although that is in somewhat theoretical lab conditions it doesn’t take much imagination to see the potential.

5G And Smart Cities: A Boon For Tech Entrepreneurs

Right now you can’t move for stories about 5G. Like so many things in the mobile world, being first to market with the biggest, fastest and greatest is dominating the headlines.

Operators from Vodafone in Australia, through Telecom Italia, to Japan’s NTT Docomo, are all testing network capability and speed. The next super-highway race is well and truly on.