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GBP15bn Vodafone and Three UK Mobile Merger Looks Imminent

Friday, Mar 10th, 2023 (8:14 am) - Score 21,304
Vodafone-UK-and-Three-UK-Merger-Illustration

Sources close to the proposed merger talks between mobile network operators Vodafone and Three UK (CK Hutchison), which could value the combined business at around £15bn, have reportedly indicated that a deal may be announced as soon as before the end of March 2023.

The operators officially confirmed they were in “discussions” to potentially create Britain’s largest mobile network operator (MNO) last October 2022 (here), which would enable the pair to more easily invest in accelerated 5G mobile deployments and to better compete with the already merged pairs of BT and EE, as well as Virgin Media and O2. Not to mention the usual cost savings through efficiencies etc.

According to Bloomberg‘s (paywall) sources, the talks have made good progress and a deal could be announced “as soon as this month”. The transaction, if agreed, would involve both companies combining their UK businesses, with Vodafone owning 51% of the combined business and their partner CK Hutchison owning the remaining 49%.

However, such a mobile-to-mobile merger would be more open to competition and regulator concerns, since unlike the aforementioned mergers (those involved tie-ups between fixed and mobile networks) it would reduce the number of primary mobile operators in the UK market from four to three – significantly impacting choice at both the retail and wholesale (MVNO) levels.

In the past, Ofcom has tended to object to big mobile-only mergers, which is partly because they wanted to protect consumer and wholesale (MVNO) competition. But a 2020 ruling by the European Court of Justice (here) made it harder to hold that position (i.e. having 3 instead of 4 operators was found to still make for a competitive market), although the regulator is no longer beholden to such rulings post-Brexit.

Nevertheless, Ofcom does appear to have softened their stance on such mergers, but big question marks remain over what position they might take on such a tedious deal. Not to mention the complexity of unpicking existing network sharing agreements (i.e. O2 + Vodafone and Three UK + EE) and how much radio spectrum the merged company would be allowed to retain (i.e. some may need to be redistributed to rivals).

On top of that, Three UK and its related MVNOs (e.g. Smarty, iD Mobile) have historically tended to be more orientated around being the market’s low-cost brands, while Vodafone tends to be a bit more premium in its pricing. Vodafone did try to balance this via their own MVNO brand, VOXI, but it will need to go much further in order to match Three UK’s approach.

Needless to say, the approval of such a merger is likely to hinge on what kind of concessions and commitments the parties are willing to give in order to gain regulatory approval. Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will no doubt have a difficult task in assessing all this.

Finally, it’s possible that the Government may also raise security concerns, given that Three UK’s parent – CK Hutchison – is a Hong Kong firm and these days that tends to be associated with direct influence from China. The government has been trying to avoid scenarios in which countries like China secure a key position in critical national infrastructure. But CKH may well point out that it already controls some UK ports and power networks, which doesn’t necessarily improve the perception.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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95 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    I don’t see how the consumer can benefit from such a merger. Having one telco that does not do fixed broadband services, makes them very motivated to focus on their mobile network. Also with the amount of spectrum auctioned by ofcom in the past few years, there is room and capacity for four operators to provide a decent service.

    I think the propose to of another company buying 100% of ThreeUK from Hutchison group is not the worst idea, but I don’t think that company should be VodafoneUK.

    1. Avatar photo Adrian says:

      I agree. I bet this is basically going to follow the same blueprint as the Orange and T-Mobile merger in terms of pricing.

      Now EE is the most expensive network by far and even their MVNOs don’t tend to compete well on price when compared with their peers.

      Of course, pricing isn’t the only consideration but with reduced competition I am skeptical that we’ll see a corresponding increase in network quality to make the merger worthwhile for consumers.

    2. Avatar photo Andrew in Worcestershire says:

      Think big! This is a marriage made in heaven – consider the synergies of crapness: Both 3 and Voda are appalling to deal with, have web sites and online consumer interfaces from the last century, and customer contact centres operating out of the last circle of hell. Now they can come together, and share worst practice, use whichever partner has the cheapest, worst quality suppliers, combine the worst business processes, choose the most onerous and unreasonable T&Cs. And pay their useless directors even more for even less.

      On a slightly on-topic comment, it’s remarkable that CKH, who were effectively the founders of Orange (when it was good) should be the owners of a dreadful performer like 3.

    3. Avatar photo Me says:

      It benefits consumers as it will hugely improve the network signals from the two companies. Why should EE be beholden to the monopoly on signal strength in the UK? I think this will be a good thing in this aspect. We shall see what happens though.

    4. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      The line “In the past, Ofcom has tended to object to big mobile-only mergers, which is partly because they wanted to protect consumer”

      Like when exactly have OFCOM ever ever done such a thing? The only ones OFCOM protects is the carriers and they’re shareholder pals.

    5. Avatar photo Nick says:

      It does do fixed broadband! When Vodafone acquired Cable & Wireless network, it was considered the UK’s largest fibre network and its consists of what was Mercury,Energis,Thus and Norweb, you’d think BT would have been the biggest but it’s not well not in 2012 it wasn’t. Vodafone also provides LLU and carrier pre select on PSTN and also full fibre on Openreach and City Fibre which it wholly serves its residential customers and its former C&W network was built to serve businesses directly.

      When or if the Three-Vodafone deal goes ahead, it won’t include C&W but they will still offer residential and SME customers fixed line broadband and the merged mobile network will be able to provide these mobile network customers fixed line broadband at a cheaper rate by using Vodafone’s fixed line network which would be better than reselling a 100% BT Wholesale product like Orange used to.

      Three in Austria acquired Tele2 and now offers a full fixed line and mobile offering to customers. This clearly shows Hutchison do want to fill in the gap of not offering fixed line services and a merger with Vodafone would be the cheapest way of getting it rather than buying a fixed line operator like TalkTalk for a few billion which is already troubled and needs a lot of investment and improvement especially when it comes to customer service! Three already provide home broadband via 4G and 5G but they are not satisfied with this.

      The article mentions Hutchisons China connection, if Hutchison’s owner was worried about China he would have moved away from Hong Kong, a man that has a lot of business in the UK, the ports and retail businesses and utilities, the government has much more to be worried about than Three if they think China and Hutchison are a problem!

  2. Avatar photo SBC says:

    In my professional opinion, this is bad. But personally, these 2 networks are the worst for 2G (i know) in my area, so fair enough.

    I think the eventual demise of phone shops (online and offline) is imminent. EE stopped selling contracts via them, meaning you have to go direct which means no incentive like Cashback. Will Vodafone3 do the same?

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      Three don’t offer a 2g network. The network was predicated on the nascent 3g technology back in 2003.

    2. Avatar photo Sam P says:

      It’s 2023 and someone still complains about lack of 2G

    3. Avatar photo R says:

      Phone shops are not going away any time soon. Trust me, I work in one. Our whole region has been getting record breaking sales with only positive forecasts expected.

    4. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      “Phone shops are not going away any time soon. Trust me, I work in one. Our whole region has been getting record breaking sales with only positive forecasts expected.”

      I don’t doubt that, but tied shops are an expensive distribution channel, and MNO’s will be looking at the combination of high costs and lost margin, and thinking that could be extra profit for them. And un-tied shops encourage direct price competition and discounting, again something the MNOs don’t like. The less real competition there is, the easier it is for the MNOs to quietly curtail these sort of channels, and force as many people as possible to shop direct. Next step will be the MNO’s looking for the opportunity to take their deals off the price comparison web sites (another cost + lost margin scenario) and tell customers to come direct.

    5. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      Its not bad, its absolutely terrible. How Voda think adding Three’s pitifully over subscribed network to its own is beneficial is totally beyond me.

  3. Avatar photo Jack says:

    If someone was going to change network to either Vodafone or Three over the next few months, which is the safer bet?

    Will the Three brand go and it will just become Vodafone?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Vodafone would have the majority share at 51%, but right now we don’t know exactly what the plan is.

    2. Avatar photo 4chAnon says:

      Looking at how Vodafone/Three merged abroad (Australian market) the combined company became Vodafone Hutchinson 3 and traded under the Vodafone brand, with 1% of revenue as royalty.

    3. Avatar photo Nick says:

      In Australia Vodafone and Three merged a while back and the official company name is Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty and they dropped the Three brand a year after the merger only to use Vodafone.

      Before Three, Hutchison was using the Orange brand there even after they sold it off. The 2G only users were on Orange and the 3G users were on Three, they moved people over to Three because they had to pay to use the Orange brand in Australia,India and Hong kong.

      The Orange brand was 2G related, the Three brand was known for 3G and now the Three brand and Hutchison 3G name is well beyond its sell by date, it implies that the company only offers 3G, it should have disappeared long ago!

  4. Avatar photo Lewis says:

    If I’m honest, I think I’d be happy with the merger should it happen. I think having three main MNO’s is the minimum needed to keep a degree of good competition. BT/EE are already quite far ahead in terms of 4G and 5G deployment and having another MNO that could challenge them for that top spot may just force increased value from BT/EE. 3 mobile are clearly well placed for incredible 5G (when deployed) and vodafone has a very robust network at this point (although lacking in 5G availability) so a combination could give customers of both companies an improved service.

    I would agree that a combined 3 & Vodafone would have too much of a spectrum advantage so a little restructuring there could be smart.

    1. Avatar photo Nick says:

      I agree. Cornerstone’s masts currently support both Vodafone and o2. If the merger will mean that Vodafone will start allowing 3 customers to use its masts, then the largest mast provider in the UK will be supporting all networks with the exception of EE.

      Anything that improves the signal range for customers has got to be a good thing.

  5. Avatar photo Ferrocene Cloud says:

    Vodafone’s network is not really fit for purpose in the 21st century, especially against the backdrop of competitors doing far better offering more bandwidth and resiliency. The 5G rollout is poor, hampered by a lack of network investment over the past decade. Huge parts of the network are running 1G backhaul which is either being maxed out or close to it.

    Factor in Vodafone selling off and leasing back Newbury HQ to raise cashflow, and massive cutbacks on the investment and upgrade it’s pretty clear that the financials aren’t there.

    If this is approved, I can definitely see CMA forcing a spectrum sell off to even things up.

    1. Avatar photo Chris5dw says:

      “ Huge parts of the network are running 1G backhaul which is either being maxed out or close to it.” – thank you for explaining this.

      I’ve been a Three customer in Cornwall for over 10yrs, and always pleasantly surprised at their coverage levels and fast speeds (no doubt because everyone trash talks them, so I’m one of very few customers using all of their 5G bandwidth).
      I recently got a second sim with Vodafone, and despite showing 4G, it regularly throws me back to 3G, and isn’t capable of streaming BBC Sounds, with no sign of 5G anytime soon.

      For such a premium cost, Vodafone don’t deserve the brand status for such an appalling product.

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      My dealings with vodafone customer support have led me to believe that Vodafone is a sinking ship, over promising in everything it does, and under delivering.

      Their focus appears to be on “how cheap can we run things”. Giving the bare minimum in speed despite a cable that can support more, paying out massively in automatic compensation costs with no care whether they do or do not.

      Business seems unsustainable

      I’d expect the company files for bankruptcy in a few years once they’ve sucked everything dry.

      Now they’ll take 3 with them.

    3. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Look at this from a different perspective all MNO need funding to build both new tech (5G) and more sites.
      With return on that capx low that funding is either impossible or probably high cost.
      Masts are at a premium cellnex now owns H3G unilateral sites and the remaining ones transfer in 2031 when MBNL contract expires.
      CTIL Vodafone wanted to sell those sites to raise funds.
      Add in the government’s demands to remove Huawei all MNO have higher costs this has hit 3 quite hard.
      All when customers cost more to on board and will not pay more.
      So a key question is will cost saving drive network improvements or be used for shareholder dividends?

  6. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    “big question marks remain over what position they might take on such a tedious deal”

    ?!

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      Haha, superb

  7. Avatar photo Me says:

    Will the ‘cost savings’ be passed on to the customer? I doubt it very much.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Terrible news. Price will go up, speed caps in. A company with dubious customer service in my own experience.

    2. Avatar photo UmbrellaCorp says:

      In the past sell offs & mergers have resulted in price increases. The same will happen here.

  8. Avatar photo Aled says:

    Out of curiousity, what is the main driver of this?

    Do one side have something the other lacks?

    How can you have a premium brand merging with a cheapy brand?

    Spectrum sharing? Combined spectrum could actually be a good thing, but surely having such different networks isn’t ideal

    1. Avatar photo nabs says:

      I suspect individually the Vodafone and 3 networks are a long way off from being able to trouble the bigger rivals in terms of coverage and speed. The financial investment required to upgrade said networks to be able to challenge BT/EE and Liberty Virgin O2 will be huge, beyond what they could afford individually.

      By combining resources they should be able to build a bigger, better network that will easily challenge their rivals.

      In my experience, 3 has always had a very good network in larger towns and cities while Vodafone has tended to struggle, the opposite being true when you venture to more rural locations. If they’re able to successfully combine their strengths they’ll be able to bring some real competition to the dominant EE.

    2. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

      Out of curiousity, what is the main driver of this?

      In a nutshell, it is because neither company are making a sustainable return on the capital they employ. Which basically means they are reducing the wealth of their shareholders. Not space here to explain that all but do a search on “why is ROCE important”. In Vodafone’s case this under-perforamnce is because the board have spent decades playing incompetently at international M&A rather than the dull, hard basics of running a successful business. In Three’s case, simply trying to create and grow an undifferentiated business in a mature market with big competitors.

      And just as playing at M&A internationally hasn’t solved Vodafone’s problems, this merger won’t. A bit like VM and O2, it’s simply a vastly over paid board running away from the tough grind of running a truly profitable business, to do things that are more exciting.

    3. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Spectrum sharing is a technical no no each operator needs more spectrum to enable higher download speeds and the technical complexity for transmitters and ownerships of shared ran equipment kpi Slas who maintains what will not drive any customer improvements

  9. Avatar photo Richard says:

    Hope this isn’t allowed. More consolidation, less choice and higher prices.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Yet other countries do fine with just three (no pun intended) mobile operators and this will challenge BT/EE’s No1 position with respect to speeds and coverage.

      In most places, EE is the only option for decent coverage and having another operator who can challenge that is competition.

      Plus they’ve not stated exactly what their plans are including with regards to prices so I think it’s only fair to wait to see before being Judge, Jury and Executer.

    2. Avatar photo one2one says:

      Job losses & store closures too.

  10. Avatar photo Matt says:

    So if someone takes out a contract with Three for say 24 months tomorrow, will the price and experience they receive not change?

    It may even benefit them in the long run as you would gain coverage and masts from both providers?

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      The only way to save money is to merge the RAN into one oss I suspect Vodafone’s reduce opex and reduce the number of sites and in effect close the 3 network

  11. Avatar photo Tommy Telco says:

    What about poor old TalkTalk?

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      What about them? Not good with your data security

  12. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    They could be required to sell some of their spectrum to a new player. That way we could see a creation of a new Mobile Network Operator that could be purely 5G.

    1. Avatar photo NewNetwork says:

      A new player would have slim chance with planning permission for new monopoles. Three has been struggling with planning permission.

    2. Avatar photo Jon says:

      You do know that 5G is a data only tech and the cost for a new entry into the market would be huge we have never seen that Hutchison effectively bought into the uk market with rabbit and Microtel (that became Orange PCs) from BAE and then did the same after selling Orange and buying a wcdma 3 license owner
      They have been looking for an exit for years and then the van shutdown their attempt to buy O2 that sealed 3 fate

  13. Avatar photo Sam says:

    I don’t want this to happen because trying to get through to someone who is willing to help on Three is rare I left them for Vodafone who have been better to deal with! Plus Vodafone’s 4G has been more useable than the poor attempt from Three.

  14. Avatar photo sebbb says:

    > i.e. some [spectrum] may need to be redistributed to rivals
    Seriously? So when will they fix what they have done with EE, basically allowing one single carrier to hoard the majority of the good spectrum on mid bands and distorting the market? In Europe every MNO professional I had a chat with thinks it was a huge mistake to not demand T-Mobile and Orange to redistribute some, now Ofcom redistributing would:
    – keep EE ahead of the game with something that is limited in nature
    – hinder any chance of 3/vodafone to actually seriously be able to compete with EE in terms of network spectrum deployed

    Some of the spectrum in N78 band might be redistributed, indeed, but then it was another mistake to allow 3 to acquire Relish without any countermeasure. If anything on 4G they could also redistribute either the B32 or B38. In any case, o2 would be the natural acquirer of these. Competition is true when resources that are limited by physics are balanced across the users, not with a technical advantage that others cannot possibly fix.

    1. Avatar photo Stefan Stanislawski says:

      There was a ludicrous idea of spectrum auctions which then got distorted by spectrum camps because pure auction actually didn’t work. Now there’s a talk of redistributing but operators pay good money for their spectrum. So the country is left where they deeply suboptimal solution. Thanks to the madness and obsession with auctioning spectrum. It could have been allocated on a market share basis with a fixed and variable element but that wouldn’t have raised any money for the treasury. Or at least not the large upfront lump sums.

    2. Avatar photo 4chAnon says:

      But, they did redistribute spectrum?

    3. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Well that spectrum to refer to costs money it was purchased by the networks and it’s needed to provide high speed services,if it’s not used ofcom ask for it back, it not just spectrum that cost money it’s site’s maintenance high cost vendor equipment government telling the operators to get huawei out that’s a hush cost who pays for that?

  15. Avatar photo Declan M says:

    Would be nice to know if the mast sharing between EE and 3 would be continued indefinitely and between 02 and Vodafone i would be very interested in getting a Vodafone/3 sim would be great for speed and coverage.

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Thats the key question Vodafone would have a commercial advantage if MBNL and CTIL remained as is. Both should be ceased.
      The benift was to save costs to deploy and share ran and sites but in fact it may cost more to keep them. Sites are valuable as seen that 3 sold their unilateral sites to cellnex to raise funds they told the cma to build 5G MBNLs site that are 3 will transfer in 2031 to cellnex the remains to BT EE

  16. Avatar photo Tom says:

    As a Vodafone customer I think the merger will be beneficial to Vodafone customers who are in none 5G areas being able to use Threes 5G signal too. And in areas where there is no 5G with both Vodafone and Three three customers would benefit from being able to use Vodafone’s 4G network however I dread being in a 4G only area and having to use Threes congested 2.5mbps max 4G speed in some areas. However in a couple of years once 5G is in most places the merger will be beneficial making 5G signal stronger everywhere.

    Will be interesting to see what happens if/when Vodafone/Three merge into one company with the current mast sharing agreements that Vodafone and O2 and Three and EE currently have. If this was kept then that would mean as well as Vodafone and Three customers being able to use all Vodafone and Threes masts they would also have a lot of shared sites they can also use that are from EE and O2.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      “As a Vodafone customer I think the merger will be beneficial to Vodafone customers who are in none 5G areas being able to use Threes 5G signal too. And in areas where there is no 5G with both Vodafone and Three three customers would benefit from being able to use Vodafone’s 4G network however I dread being in a 4G only area and
      having to use Threes congested 2.5mbps max 4G speed in some areas. However in a couple of
      years once 5G is in most places the merger will be beneficial making 5G signal stronger
      everywhere.”

      Firstly, I find myself in agreement with yourself as I’ve been a Vodafone customer and in
      places where Vodafone and Three for example have 5G, sadly I’ve found Vodafone to be rather
      lacking in speeds to the point that I query why Vodafone even bothered with 5G in those places
      as Three easily outperforms Vodafone on 5G, that said allowing Three customers to use Vodafone 5G
      and Vodafone customers to use Three 5G has got to be a good thing for connectivity.

      As to being in a 4G only area, sadly this is a area where both Three and Vodafone are lacking
      as I’ve yet to experience decent 4G speeds on either network as none come anyway close to EE.

      Hopefully if the joint venture does go ahead than customers will be able to use both Vodafone
      and Three 4G infrastructure which should mean a much improved network coverage and faster 4G
      speeds to the customers as the case was when Orange and T-Mobile merged to form EE.

      Simply because at the moment in the locations where I need mobile connectivity, the only
      viable operator is EE or their MNVOs such as 1pMobile so if the joint venture between
      Vodafone and Three can challenge this than great but let’s first wait and see.

      “Will be interesting to see what happens if/when Vodafone/Three merge into one company with the current mast sharing agreements that Vodafone and O2 and Three and EE currently have. If this was kept then that would mean as well as Vodafone and Three customers being able to use all Vodafone and Threes masts they would also have a lot of shared sites they can also use that are from EE and O2.”

      Indeed or what could happen and there’s no certainly that it would happen is Boldyn Networks
      take a controlling stake in the mast agreements between the existing operators or takes over
      the mast agreements completely on a neutral basis and the operators lease from them which would work
      in much the same way that the TfL contract works with Boldyn Networks being responsible for the
      infrastructure and EE, O2, VodaThree etc lease from them.

  17. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    I’m invested in Vodafone and BT, so anything that helps Vodafone’s share price is good for me. Reading between the lines of the latest press releases, it’s sort of implied that Vodafone/Three have been in discussions with OFCOM, to determine changes required to possibly allow this to go through.
    Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t see any chance of this being approved as both companies are predominantly mobile focused; My guess is they’ll have to surrender spectrum at the very least. Something else that may be a minor issue, in addition to Cornerstone, is MBNL the EE/Three mast sharing company, but that’d probably be something for EE and Three to sort out between themselves.The only reason I think this may yet happen, is because it appears to be still moving forward, It’ll be interesting to watch.

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      In fact when Orange and T-Mobile merged the merged ran was reduced and sites churned to save opex ghat caused a lot of coverage issues and technical backward steps that the ESN requirements have drive the EE network to rebuild what was lost.
      Don’t think that all the Vodafone and 3 sites will stay

  18. Avatar photo Angela Jansen says:

    I hope they don’t scrap SMARTY as it has been great value for me. Also, Wee Bear would lose his 27 years worth of free referral months.

  19. Avatar photo Gower says:

    I can’t see the regulator and competition authorities approving it, but if it gets the blessing then clearly the winner would be Vodafone with access to Three’s enormous 5G spectrum holdings.

    Can see pricing for a merged Voda-Three being more akin to Vodafone’s current pricing than Three’s, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it results in better network quality. Three has always chased low value customers to bolster their headline subscriber numbers but this would be a terrible strategy for the merged company.

    1. Avatar photo Jon says:

      The fact that Vodafone share price is in the toilet and 3 have said their network is unsustainable in the long term what did Vodafone do when they were blocked in selling their Vodapage network to page one by the cma ….. they closed it down

  20. Avatar photo Yatta! says:

    When CK Hutchison’s Italian arm merged with VEON’s Wind forming Wind Tre, the European Commission required them to sell a significant chunk of their combined spectrum to a new forth network, France’s Iliad.

    This actually improved mobile competition in Italy, which now benefits from the cheapest and most generous deals in Europe.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Three is the UK’s Iliad though. If everyone wants 3 networks, then the extra spectrum would go to O2 and I’m not seeing them doing what Three/Iliad does.

    2. Avatar photo Yatta! says:

      @Anon.

      “Three is the UK’s Iliad though”. In reality Three is the UK’s Tre, both figuratively and literally.

      There’s no reason to believe VM/O2 will be granted Three/Vodafone spectrum.

  21. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Hope Vodafone leave SMARTY well damn alone, I hate Vodafone to owe 51% share! I prefer Three 51% rather than Vodafone.

    Vodafone did NOTHING for 5G roll out in my area, NONE!

  22. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    O2 won’t take Three’s place as the aggressive network with low prices, so I don’t see how a new premium network with Vodafone in charge is good for my wallet.

    I’d be fine with a merge between O2 and Vodafone as they’re similar networks, but Three is the main reason for the UK to have cheap plans. Unless spectrum is made available for a new 4th network, I don’t like this.

  23. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. Guess we can say goodbye to fast 5G, real IP addresses with no CGNAT and awesome deals like unlimited data for £2 a month (was a business deal) or unlimited everything for £18.

    Vodafone have a terrible 5G rollout. The only operator in my city that has no 5G still to this day. And their 4G is horribly slow. 20 megabits in 2023 isn’t good at all, and 1 or 2 up.

    Yes mobile networks are subjective, someone will no doubt tell me three is rubbish, but it isn’t for me. Vodafone on the other hand is horrible wherever I use it.

    1. Avatar photo Reality says:

      Until the proposed new company announces the details in it’s future plans, I think you and others are simply assuming what they will do without giving them a chance to explain.

      In other words instead of acting like Judge, Jury and Executioners, why not simply wait to see what their plans are before making such daft comments.

      Than once their plans are explain than comment but until than, there’s no point as it still has to get by the competition regulator who has the final say.

    2. Avatar photo FX says:

      Wait till Three CK Hutchison leave UK comms altogether.

    3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      “daft comments”.

      We’ll see. Vodafone will buy up three, and destroy it. Funny how you can have your opinion, but I can’t have mine. I think i’ll just ignore yours “reality”. We all know VF will destroy the great work three has done.

    4. Avatar photo anonymous No1 groupie says:

      Funny how the above poster seems to believe that Vodafone will buy up Three to destroy it
      forgetting of course that it’s a joint venture with Vodafone only having 51% with Three
      holding the other 49% of the joint venture.

      In any case, “anonymous” are you a part of the high level talks between Vodafone and Three?

      Do you have you have knowledge of their proposals being discussed at said talks?

      No you’re merely stating a ill-founded bias personal opinion from your experiences of Vodafone and Three which you’re more than welcome to but as “Reality” has stated, maybe it’s better to actually
      wait and see what the new joint venture is bringing to the table before jumping the gun with
      negative opinions.

      In no way did “Reality” say you’re not allowed a opinion, they merely stated caution as the
      joint venture may be never like anyone here believes it may be like.

      Which is a wise move to make as you could be proven wrong or indeed you might be proven
      right but rather than assume (I’m sure you know what Assume actually means) why not just wait to
      see what happens after all, it still has to be signed off by the competition regulator.

    5. Avatar photo Pragmatist says:

      Pay no attention to the troll anonymous.

      Another that thinks theirs is the only opinion that matters you can’t have one. Just ignore them, responding to them is what they want. If you don’t feed the trolls, they go away.

      Anyway, I’m with you on this anonymous. The big inefficient network buying smaller better network, when had that ever worked out well? Never. Vodafone has performed poorly and their share price reflects that. They have a poorly run network that consistently slides down the scale for speed, reliability etc. They’re just coasting by on coverage stats from the olden days. Their data network is horrendous. I too quite enjoy data on three and am convinced that voda will wreck it. Too bad. Maybe the regulator will stop it but I sincerely doubt it.

    6. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      really don’t care what reality and his sock puppet accounts have to say. I don’t require his permission or approval to post. Vodafone will destroy three. My opinion, based on yes actual performance of Vodafone nothing personal if Vodafone were great, i’d be saying that. Fact is they aren’t and their 5G is essentially non-existent and even when it does exist, it’s poor. Because they use DSS and they don’t have anywhere near the spectrum allocation that three has.

      I’ve said my bit. Don’t really care if people don’t like it. I don’t seek your approval.

    7. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      Trolls? Me thinks that myself Pragmatist and Anonymous needs to look in the mirror of course we could be right but why not see what the joint venture plans are before we make a ass of you and me?

      Yes Vodafone could be a bad option but than again, when Three tried to takeover O2 years ago we could say that would not have been a good idea.

      If we want to stick to our bias views than fair enough but lets been proven wrong first.

    8. Avatar photo Cable&Wireless says:

      ‘Reality’ will see real reality.. just wait till end of 2023 🙂

  24. Avatar photo pint says:

    Same thing happened in Australia a few years back.
    Ended up with three disappearing and people having to move to Vodafone

  25. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    This should never be allowed, less competition. I have just signed up for a 12 month thing from Smarty, so I am stuck for 12 months, but if this merger goes ahead, once the contract is over, I will be off to Giff gaff. I detest vodafone

    1. Avatar photo Dan says:

      No you’re not. You’ve signed up to a special offer from Smarty which you can have for 12 months, but you can still leave at any time.

  26. Avatar photo footbag says:

    They’ll reduce costs which ought to be good. But VF have mad a total mess of themselves financially with buying sprees abroad which they messed up and sold at a loss, and an arrogance that came from having the poshest office and premium prices rather not the best service for their customers. (Which they’ve now sold).

    So I hate to agree but expect that the savings will go into the shareholders pockets and we’ll all get higher prices from the CPI+ gravy train.

  27. Avatar photo R says:

    Not necessarily a bad thing to have a big backer.

    EE has BT
    O2 has Virgin Media

    Vodafone will now have Three, bringing them more in line with the rest.

    Also, EE and Three share masts (EE is better). O2 and VF share masts too (O2 is better).

    If VF and Three shared the same network, they would already have the most network coverage. But what about the O2 mast sharing agreement? Surely that will make them TOO good?

    1. Avatar photo Dan says:

      In what respect is O2 ‘better’ than Vodafone?

    2. Avatar photo Gigabit says:

      Dan I’d say in limited areas of London O2 are better as they have a substantial small cell network.

    3. Avatar photo Dan says:

      @Gigabit That’s fair enough about O2’s small cells in London, but I think most people would disagree that O2 has a better network than Vodafone overall. If you look at the latest RootMetrics reports, Vodafone scores better than O2 in virtually every part of the country (including the East – O2’s host zone, and including London).

    4. Avatar photo Dan Arron says:

      Operators may share masts but Three don’t share all of EE’s masts- and many of the masts they do share seem to be 3G only out of town? This is why these 2 differ plus spectrum allocation of course.
      I use both, and VF:
      EE definitely best all rounder, it’s world’s away from o2 and VF, often.
      VF OK, but variable.
      3 call quality is appalling, falling back to 3G often. Fast 5G in zones 1-2/3 London but further out 4G dreadful?
      Ultimately the consumer just wants a signal, they don’t care who owns and operates the infrastructure?
      If they do merge they need to swallow their brand pride and develop a plan to use each legacy infrastructure’s strengths: but I suspect cheap will rule. Going to be complicated that’s for sure?

    5. Avatar photo It’s me says:

      Ok 3 are not bigger than Vodafone hutch are reducing their funding and why is it that the physical networks MNO drive competition MVNO are also in the game the Vodafone brand is worth more but that does not stop a sales to customers using the Vodafone and 3 brands 3 always saw themselves as disruptive by that brings lower returns.
      The UK market is saturated 3 had no tie up with a broadband provider that left them at risk and if there was a 4th network they would buy up 3 there is none it’s a pipedream for many years there have been hopes someone like Google or Microsoft would enter the uk market the fact is the return is too low on capex investment

  28. Avatar photo Mark says:

    There is no way in the South West or Wales, Midlands and many other areas that 02 are better than Vodafone I can tell you. I switched from 02 based network due to constant dropped calls and unusable data due to congestion to a Vodafone based network last year and it is night and day. Vodafone are light years ahead.

  29. Avatar photo Mark Gillingham says:

    Just like people who spot review mobile networks; rating their own solo one customer experience and convincing others that this represents the entire mobile network as a whole, even though there are so many variables affect the actual experience, that make spot reviews useless if you look at it as a whole.

    We now have posters who are convinced they know how to manage a mobile network and run a business based on their experience of the mobile network from a customer service, coverage perspective and what they read about the network, through the news, message boards, and what their mates say down the pub.

    This is in its early stages, and already people are being pessimistic, why not wait and see what happens, like any merger there has to be compromise, but there’s also positives as well.

    1. Avatar photo Anon says:

      Exactly, well said. It’s about time the doomsayers here were told otherwise.

    2. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

      I disagree. If a carrier can’t provide the services its selling at a good enough standard, then customers are well within they’re right to express they’re opinions of them. Everyone knows my low opinions of three.

  30. Avatar photo Brendan says:

    I haven’t thought this through, so please don’t beat me up. Why is competition such a good thing?

    Obviously, there are political elements involved, but why can’t one company/government entity own and operator all mobile phone masts and either rent them out to networks, or make all masts available to all networks? The only thing networks would then have to compete on is pricing and customer service, guaranteeing much better signal and service than customers currently receive?

    Same with broadband – yes there is Openreach and the network they rent to providers, but then why are there so many alternatives and smaller fibre networks which can’t scale? Surely if I have fibre cable coming into my house, I should be able to choose BT, Virgin Media, Jurassic Fibre, Hyperoptic or any other provider. Must be creating rats nests of cables in underground ducts having so many different providers networks running unnecessarily parallel to one another.

    Again to reiterate that I have not thought this through, and I don’t know the downsides, but as a country we must be able to do better. One phone network, one broadband network – no competition, no hassle. Same with energy, but not touching that one haha! 🙂

  31. Avatar photo Bryan says:

    So does anyone know whats the deal if lets say hypothetically vodafone took over three and then made three disappear like T-Mobile did to Orange and i’m mid way through a contract? would I have the right to cancel? or would I be assimilated into the vodafone collective and unable to leave without penalty?

    1. Avatar photo pint says:

      Vodafone and three merged in Australia, although it seems it was more of a take over by vodafone with a subsequent shutdown of three, according to this article Three customers could migrate away to another network free of charge, or migrate to Vodafone for duration of their contract https://www.whistleout.com.au/MobilePhones/News/vodafone-shutting-down-3-for-good

    2. Avatar photo Bryan says:

      thanks pint. I have vodafone already as my backup (PAYG). No way am I moving 5 lines across to vodafone if I have a choice in the matter.

  32. Avatar photo Real cost folks says:

    At the end of the if you look at country’s that lead in terms of connectivity and speed they have government funding in the UK legislative changes have allowed both new tech and companies and products into the market but to build a network cost a huge amount of resources and funding and still a blocker is lpa who won’t allow sites to be built.
    3 and EE both have shared sites under MBNL both also have unilateral sites and have also upgraded shared sites at own cost i. e three have done this on street works where ee have not contributed to the build costs but have a buy in
    Government needs to take ownership of a huge cost driver and that the removal of huawei , if you believe that china has access to the network or not, it costs money to remove and replace with another vendors equipment that’s many hundreds of millions.
    And that was given a deadline. All of this filters down to the customer support cost of handsets duration of contracts that we all pay for off shoring outsourcing staff not having pay rises etc etc etc this is the real world we live in. Advertising that twists facts 99% coverage thats actually population not geographic not how it’s sold!

  33. Avatar photo Nick says:

    Vodafone are obsessed with statistics like customer satisfaction surveys they send customers after call centre workers deal with a call, they used to pressurise workers to make sure customers do them and they have to be the best. It’s obviously obsessed with the statistics of being market leader after all it’s fallen to the third largest in terms of customer base. Until 2001 Vodafone was market leader and since then Vodafone UK has fallen behind its other European businesses, you go to some countries and it’s highly popular, you speak to people in the UK and people seem to hate it, associated with terrible customer service and known to be expensive, it is no wonder Vodafone want to regain there market leader status they lost over 20 years ago and they will resort to doing so by any means.

    I can only imagine this merger is to happen out of greed and it will cost UK consumers dearly for the privilege, prices shot up when Orange & T-Mobile merged. Before that you could get some bargains on either and the prices with EE now are pretty steep and this happened before BT’s involvement. 4 networks should be the minimum not 3.

  34. Avatar photo UKJoke says:

    If this happens it needs to be done asap. I say this because it looks like there is/ there will be a halt on monopole planning permissions in the meantime.

    1. Avatar photo UKJoke says:

      *planning permission applications.

      Maybe even new builds halted temporarily as both networks may have some too close to each other.

  35. Avatar photo Dylan says:

    And then the UK has even less options. And I thought four carriers was bad…

    Neither company has particularly good service around here but at least Three has 4G. Vodafone can’t get its act together and it’s been this way ever since I was with them in 2012.

    I’m glad I moved to EE. Not only do I get 4G but I get speeds faster than my broadband connection (100 Mb/s), and not Three’s somewhat lousy 20 Mb/s.

  36. Avatar photo Andrew c says:

    Stop moning about 2g…to be fair iam quite lucky to be in a area that’s fantastic for 5g and thats with three I get anywhere from 150 to 300mb…plus I have 1 gig and that’s full fiber to my house…..

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