The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of Telefónica’s O2 Ireland business by Hutchison 3G, which operates the Three network. However, Hutchison has been required to make commitments that’ll see it helping some competitors.
According to the EC, the original plans for the O2/Three merger would have “removed an important competitive force from the Irish mobile telecommunications market to the detriment of consumers.”
O2 Ireland and Three.ie are the second and the fourth largest mobile network operators in Ireland, competing with Vodafone and Eircom.
There are two major commitments. Firstly, Hutchison will assist in the launch of two mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), with one of them also able to acquire spectrum and become a full mobile network operator. In addition, Hutchison won’t terminate its network-sharing deal with rival Eircom but instead will improve the terms.
Joaquín Almunia, the EC’s President in charge of competition policy, said “In a context of increased data consumption on their mobile devices, European consumers should continue to benefit from improved services at attractive prices. To achieve this, it is essential that healthy competition is preserved in mobile telecoms markets. The commitments offered by Hutchison 3G ensure that Irish consumers will continue to enjoy these benefits.”
Ireland currently has around 4.6 million inhabitants and 5.5 million mobile telecoms subscriptions.