BT has hit back at claims from Vodafone’s CEO Vittorio Colao that it is trying to gain complete control of the telecoms market, just two weeks after its EE takeover bid was cleared by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA).
BT criticised over EE takeover
At the end of October, the competition watchdog cleared the £12.5 billion deal involving BT and mobile network operator EE, finding that there would be no ‘‘result in a substantial lessening of competition in the UK.’’ The acquisition will allow BT to create a huge telecommunications network which will cover fixed-line phones, broadband, mobile and TV.
Colao has made his frustration towards the deal known, calling for the European Commission’s Margrethe Vestager to launch an investigation into BT, fearing that the British firm could place a stranglehold around the telecoms market. ‘‘Your main supplier is actually a competitor and does not play ball,’’ said Colao on BBC’s Today Programme.
‘‘We see attempts to re-monopolise European markets, and that isn’t good,’’ said Colao, who also launched an attack on Deutsche Telekom, who, like BT, were previously state-owned.
‘‘This is a clear attempt by Deutsche Telekom and BT to undo 30 years of progress in telecoms in Europe and return to their monopoly status,’’ commented the Vodafone CEO.
‘‘Deutsche Telekom and BT are both clearly pushing through Europe to use the copper networks they own to deliver broadband.’’
‘‘We are the fourth largest provider of broadband in Europe but we do not get the access or service we need. In the UK, Openreach is delivering just half of what we request on time, that’s really bad,’’ continued Colao, who suggested that British telecom firms can learn a few things from southern Europe.
In an interview with City A.M., a spokesperson for BT hit back at Colao’s comments, stating that BT is not trying to ‘remonopolise’ the market, claiming that it owns ‘‘just 33 of the market share, one of the lowest in Europe.’’
‘‘Fibre coverage stands at 90% in the UK compared with just 25% in Italy so we are amazed that Vodafone are suggesting the UK can learn from southern Europe,’’ continued the BT worker, who added that Colao’s comments are ‘‘misleading and downright inaccurate.’’
‘‘The ‘m word’ – monopoly – is being used to set false hares running.’’
‘‘Nobody minds robust debate, but it helps when those making allegations first check their data and get the basic facts right.’’
Broadband firms going head-to-head
Colao is perhaps showing bitterness towards the BT takeover because his own firm has just launched its own broadband service in the UK, meaning that he will have to go head-to-head with the telecoms powerhouse.
Andrew Griffith, chief financial officer for Sky, has weighed into BT-EE debate. Writing in a City A.M. op-ed, Griffith said:
‘‘The frustrations with Openreach expressed by Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao yesterday are shared by millions of customers and business as well as Sky.’’
‘‘The current structure where one provider, BT, has complete ownership of the national broadband network has led to unacceptable levels of service, reduced competition, and a poverty of ambition in terms of building the network the UK will need in the future,’’ continued the CFO.
Sky, Vodafone and BT will all have to up their game where broadband is concerned, after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged last week that every home and small business will have access to broadband speeds of 10mbps, regardless of where they live, by the end of this Parliament.
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