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Three UK Fire Mast Monopoly Concern at Arqiva Sale to Cellnex

Monday, October 28th, 2019 (8:53 am) - Score 3,938

Mobile operator Three UK has warned that investment in future 5G based ultrafast mobile broadband networks could be hurt by Arqiva’s recently agreed £2bn sale of their UK masts and rooftop sites to Cellnex (here), which they say would give the new owner a “monopoly” over 80% of independent mobile sites.

The deal itself includes 7,400 cellular sites (masts and towers), as well as urban rooftop sites, and the right to market a further 900 sites across the United Kingdom. Arqiva’s existing concession agreements with local authorities for the use of street furniture (often used for the installation of 4G/5G and WiFi small cells) are also understood to be included.

However, Three UK fears that the sale would make Cellnex too dominant, not least because there would no longer be any competition from Arqiva when negotiating future access to cellular sites. This in turn could lead to higher prices as Cellnex would have no incentive to offer a more attractive deal.

A Spokesperson for Three UK said (Telegraph):

“The proposed acquisition of Arqiva’s telecoms business by Cellnex threatens to hinder the UK’s position in the global 5G race giving Cellnex control of over 80pc of independent mobile sites in the UK.

At a time when operators are focused on deploying 5G as quickly as possible, the creation of a new monopoly may increase the costs of rollout, reducing investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure, negatively impacting consumers.”

The operator has now called on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to probe the sale and we will be keeping an eye out to see if there is a response. On the other hand the UK market is somewhat complicated by the fact that mobile operators also own many of their own masts and have network sharing agreements (Three UK with EE and O2 with Vodafone).

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