BT’s £12.5bn merger with EE cleared by the CMA after six-month probe. Telegraph 15th Jan 2016

May 4th, 2016

BT Logo large resBT Group’s takeover of EE Limited, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, has been cleared by the competition watchdog, after it dismissed fears the deal would stifle the market and increase customers’ bills. The landmark deal will create a telecoms behemoth that will provide mobile, fixed-line phones, broadband and TV to around 35m customers. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved the merger, which affects 31pc of UK mobile customers, on Friday after six months of deliberations.

BT will take control of EE as two of its competitors, O2 and Three, also plan to unite in a shake-up that could shrink the UK mobile market to just three network operators. The European Commission is investigating O2’s plans in a separate inquiry, with an outcome due in the spring. The BT-EE merger was unlikely to cause “significant harm to competition or the interests of consumers”, said John Wotton, chairman of the CMA inquiry.

“The retail mobile services market in the UK is competitive, with four main mobile providers and a substantial number of smaller operators,” he said.

“As BT is a smaller operator in mobile, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect. Similarly, EE is only a minor player in retail broadband, so again it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect in this market.”

The decision confirms the CMA’s provisional ruling in October.

Gavin Patterson, BT’s chief executive, hailed the decision as “great news”. “The combined BT and EE will be a digital champion for the UK, providing high levels of investment and driving innovation in a highly competitive market,” he said.

“I have no doubt that consumers, businesses and communities will benefit as we combine the power of fibre broadband with the convenience of leading edge mobile service.”

BT will now look to close the deal on January 29. After the merger, EE will become a separate line of business within BT and will be led by Marc Allera, currently EE’s chief commercial officer. Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive for the last four and a half years, confirmed earlier this month he would depart the company. Rival firms, including Vodafone and TalkTalk, had objected to the deal on the basis that consumers would face escalating bills if the merger went ahead.

“It’s a disappointing decision which will increase costs for all mobile customers,” said Dido Harding, TalkTalk’s chief executive.

“This entity will create a company that is more powerful than BT before its privatisation – it will have a huge market pressure and squeeze out smaller mobile companies.”

Rivals also claim the BT and EE merger will affect millions of consumers and businesses because of BT’s established dominance in the market.

BT’s Openreach division, for example, provides much of the UK’s broadband coverage through its oversight of the country’s cables and wires. Some rivals have called for Openreach to be spun off into a separate company.

 

Meanwhile, EE is one of the four mobile network operators – alongside Vodafone, O2 and Three – that sells capacity to other providers, such as GiffGaff and Tesco.

The CMA ruled today that the merger of the two giants would not harm competition in backhaul, wholesale mobile or wholesale broadband services. “A combined BT-EE would not have both the ability and the incentive to disadvantage competitors such that there would be significant harm to competition,” Mr Wotton said.He added that the CMA had listened to wider concerns about the sector and the role of Openreach. “There is also an ongoing Ofcom review into the sector and its future regulation, where such concerns may have more relevance,” he said.

Sharon White, the Ofcom chief executive, recently issued a warning against the “chill wind of consolidation” in the UK mobile market.

“We’ve basked for many years under the warm glow of vibrant competition,” she said in a speech last October, adding that it is a “cornerstone” of the regulator’s role to promote competition and ensure networks are available to a range of providers.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA’s director of mergers, said BT’s role as a wholesale supplier meant “there is a real risk that the merger could reduce their incentives to supply these inputs and that this could have a detrimental impact on the retail mobile market”.

“This will have a huge market pressure and squeeze out smaller mobile companies”

Dido Harding, TalkTalk chief executive

But in its preliminary findings the watchdog said the two firms were dominant in two separate areas – with BT providing broadband, voice and TV, and EE mobile communications – meaning there would be “limited overlap between.

3 successfully buys Telefonica Ireland

July 31st, 2014

The deal, which has passed competition authority scrutiny, means that the new operator has 37pc of the Irish mobile telecoms market. It also opens the door for a change in branding to several iconic Irish businesses, including the Point Depot Theatre.“This is a big day for the Irish telecoms market,” said 3 Ireland’s chief executive, Robert Finnegan.

“We will now get down to the task of combining the strengths and talents of the two businesses to create a major force in the Irish mobile market, which will be good for competition, good for consumers and good for Ireland.“3 Ireland is owned by the Hong Kong based industrial conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa, which operates ports and retailing businesses and property development firms. O2 Ireland’s previous owner was Spanish-based Telefonica.Under the terms of the deal, a further €70m may be payable to Telefonica based on the achievement of unspecified “agreed financial targets”.

The deal was ratified by the European Commission’s competition authority based on 3 Ireland agreeing to help set up two new Irish mobile operators. UPC and Carphone Warehouse have both agreed to enter the market under as a consequence of the deal, which grants them 15pc each of the new operator’s wireless capacity to use as they see fit.3 Ireland has spent €1.1bn on its Irish operation but has yet to make a profit. Prior to its acquisition of O2 Ireland, it had just 9pc of the Irish market, far behind Vodafone, O2 and Meteor.

A recent investor report by Moody’s criticised mobile-only operators in Ireland, describing them as “vulnerable” to competitors with fixed line and mobile operations.Vodafone, which remains Ireland’s largest mobile operator, has said that it is still considering legal action to prevent the new merged entity from retaining what it sees as an unfair competitive advantage in the amount of 4G wireless spectrum available.3 Ireland’s sister companies across Europe run mobile operations in Britain, Austria, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. The combined group has over 22m customers.

Source: Irish Independent

Development Contribution Guidelines

January 28th, 2013

New Development Contribution Guidelines have been published by Ministers’ Hogan and O’Sullivan on 21st January 2012. These guidelines follow on from draft guidelines published on 27th June 2012. There are some important changes between the draft and finalised guidelines that are beneficial to the mobile telecommunications sector, these are set out below.
1. There is to be a waiver for broadband infrastructure and for the avoidance of doubt the words “masts and antennae” have been added.
2. Regarding temporary permissions, which we know are now no longer recommended except in exceptional circumstances (e.g. where particular site or environmental conditions apply) reduced rates will apply
a. 33% of normal rate for permissions of up to 3 years
b. 50% of normal rate for permissions of up to 5 years
c. 66% of normal rate for permissions of up to 10 years
3. Retention Permission: No exemption or waiver will apply to any applications for retention of development. It is important therefore that continuance-of-use permissions are lodged ahead of the expiry of temporary permissions. Local authorities will determine if the words “continuance-of-use” is acceptable in a development description – the wording does not enjoy universal acceptance from local authorities at present.
The culmination of the above points should lead to a nil liability in most circumstances for mast development.
On a point of caution however, note that Ministerial Guidelines do not have a statutory footing. Local authorities and An Bord Pleanala have to have regard to the guidelines but in the case of local authorities it is its elected members that have the reserve function of preparing development contribution schemes and it is possible that they will not comply fully with the revised guidelines, in this instance the operator would appeal the local authority decision to An Bord Pleanala who would remove any liabilities for development contributions for “masts and antenna” in keeping with the new guidelines parametres.

New Draft Development Contribution Guidelines

October 16th, 2012

New Draft Development Contribution Guidelines
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, T.D., and the Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, T.D., today (27 June) published draft guidelines for planning authorities on development contributions. The publication marks the start of an 11 week public consultation phase during which all stakeholders and members of the public are invited to submit their views on the draft. Following consideration of the submissions received final guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000 – 2010.
Speaking at the publication of draft guidelines Minister Hogan said that “Local authorities are making a significant contribution to Ireland’s economic recovery, by helping to improve the environment in which businesses thrive through their planning and economic development functions. Development contributions are a central instrument in the funding of essential physical and social infrastructure, in supporting the implementation of local authority development plans, improving the quality and competitiveness of each local authority area, and in influencing investment decisions.”
The statutory framework for development contribution schemes has been in place since 2000. Since then they have assisted in the delivery of much needed investment in essential infrastructure along with central exchequer and local authority own resources. However, there is a recognition that previous suites of schemes were prepared in a very different time. The economic landscape has been significantly altered.
Minister O’Sullivan said, “A key aim for future development contribution schemes must be to promote sustainable development, secure investment in capital infrastructure and encourage jobs and growth. I am confident that the new guidance – which is both pro-planning and pro-jobs – will enable local authorities to achieve the right balance into the future between generating the revenues required to provide the necessary infrastructure associated with new development and creating the right conditions to support sustainable development patterns, economic activity and renewal”.

Key features in the new guidance include:
• A requirement for planning authorities to put in place reduced rates of development contributions or waivers for development in town centres to support town centre development;
• change-of-use permissions, where change-of use does not lead to the need for new or upgraded infrastructure / services;
• businesses grant-aided or supported by IDA/Enterprise Ireland or other local authority or state supported local development agencies, as well as reduced rates for developments that would progress the Government’s Jobs Initiative;
• broadband provision and sustainable energy infrastructure
• protected structures
• Recommended use of lower rates in areas prioritised for development in the core strategy
• A flexible approach to phasing of payment of development contributions (subject to formal agreement between developer and planning authority).
• A consistent step-by-step methodology for use by all planning authorities in the preparation of new schemes to ensure consistency of approach.
“These draft guidelines are focused on good planning, promoting jobs and securing investment. I encourage everyone with an interest in local and regional development to make their views known as final guidelines will be published in the early autumn,” concluded Minister O’Sullivan.
The public consultation period runs until Friday 7 September. The draft guidelines are available at www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/PlanningDevelopment/Planning/PublicConsultations/
Comment: At this point operators will have made their submissions to the Department. The submissions are now being considered and new Guidance should be issued towards the end of this year with Local Authorities expected to amend their schemes within a short timeframe thereafter. Some Local Authorities have taken the pre-emptive step of revising their Development Contribution Scheme earlier this year in anticipation of forced policy change in this area. For example North Tipperary County Council DCS has been revised from the levying of €10,000 per antenna under the 2011 scheme to €2500 per antenna under the 2012 scheme. Furthermore, a series of exemptions and reductions are built into the 2012 scheme such that, under certain circumstances a full or partial waiver on the reduced sum is available.
Under the right circumstances operators may be best advised to delay lodging applications under the old schemes to benefit from reduced or nil contributions under the new contribution schemes. There is also the scope for withdrawing applications currently being processed under old development contribution schemes and re-lodging the same application under the new development contribution scheme where the new scheme offers potential savings.

Where is Ireland at in terms of 4G spectrum? ComReg answers Silicon Republic’s questions

October 16th, 2012

ComReg yesterday came in for heavy criticism by broadband lobby group Ireland Offline for the lack of progress in terms of 4G spectrum auctions, which were meant to have begun in March. The regulator answered our questions about where Ireland is at in terms of 4G.
Some of the latest technology devices, like the new iPad and iPhone 5 from Apple, are optimised to work on fourth-generation (4G) networks. 4G heralds a new era, when speeds of around 50Mbps and potentially higher will be available to smart devices over cellular networks.
But in Ireland and the UK, users of these devices aren’t currently able to enjoy them to their full potential because crucial wireless spectrum auctions have yet to happen in these countries.
In the UK, Everything Everywhere (EE) will launch the first 4G services in 10 cities on 30 October. The UK’s telecoms regulator Ofcom has confirmed that the 4G auction process is on track to begin at the end of the year to enable competitive 4G services across the UK by the first half of 2013.
Ofcom plans to start the auction process at the end of the year, with bidding starting in early 2013.
However, there is no clear indication yet as to when the corresponding auction process will begin in the Republic of Ireland.
The auctions were originally meant to have begun in March this year. Then they were delayed until the summer by consultation after consultation.
When Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, unveiled his National Broadband Strategy in August, which aims to achieve a minimum of 30Mbps broadband in every home and business in Ireland by 2015, it was believed the auctions would begin in September.
When asked by Siliconrepublic.com where the auction process was at – aka, when they would begin – ComReg today replied “no comment” but provided detailed answers about other aspects of the process.
Earlier today, lobby group IrelandOffline hit out at ComReg, railing that an auction process that should have taken four weeks is now 10 weeks in train with no end in sight.
In a statement, IrelandOffline chairman Eamon Wallace said: “ComReg has run a veritable cornucopia of consultations, even by its tortuous standards, on how to conduct the largest spectrum auction (the 4G auction) in Irish history during 2012.
“But by the time ComReg started the auction, a fatal flaw was evident. It was not auctioning spectrum in a competitive environment, it was auctioning to a cartel. O2 and Eircom formed an Active RAN Sharing entity named Mosaic in 2011 and Three and Vodafone formed an unnamed ‘Sharing’ entity in July 2012. IrelandOffline supports such initiatives and does not feel that they are, in essence, anti-competitive. In fact, such a twinpack arrangement works very well in rural Sweden for 3G networks and with the blessing of the regulator there in 1999,” Wallace said.
ComReg answers our questions on 4G spectrum
When Siliconrepublic.com contacted ComReg yesterday, it was recommended we email our questions. This afternoon we received the following reply:
1. Just where are we at in terms of the spectrum auctions? The proceedings have been put back again and again and were expected to happen earlier this year, then it was during the summer and then it was after the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan. So will we see spectrum auctions this side of Christmas?
ComReg announced on 25 May 2012 the commencement of the multi-band spectrum award process (see document 12/53). In the detailed Information Memorandum (12/52), published the same day, ComReg set out the process to be adopted for the release of radio spectrum in the three bands affected (800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz), including the different stages in the award process. While that process continues to be ongoing ComReg is not making any comment.
2. When do you envisage 4G services will be made available in the Republic of Ireland? In the UK, EE is going live on 30 October and Ofcom announced last week that 4G will be available nationwide by June.
This auction is offering spectrum rights of use across these three critical bands – 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz for the period 2013 to 2030. The spectrum rights of use being auctioned, in particular the rights of use in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands, are highly suitable for advanced mobile services, due to their excellent propagation properties which allow for high quality services and wide area coverage plus improved in-building reception. In total, 280 MHz of sub-2 GHz spectrum (ie, 140 MHz of paired spectrum) will be made available, more than doubling the currently licensed assignments in these particular bands. Hence this award process is a vital step in allowing for the next generation of advanced mobile services to be made available for Irish consumers and businesses from next year. See full link to doc 12/53.
3. I have been hearing in the industry that some of the operators are getting together to engage in active RAN sharing. Is this contrary to ComReg spectrum policy?
ComReg notes the recent trend towards increased collaboration between operators in the provision of wireless/mobile services. There are various drivers for this, including operators’ desire to reduce costs and/or provide a higher quality of service to consumers by using their combined resources. There are many forms of collaboration and the benefits and drawbacks of each type will vary depending on the specifics of the collaboration.
ComReg is of the view that spectrum sharing and pooling can, in principle, bring benefits such as reduced costs and improved quality of service.
At the same time, ComReg is aware of the potential policy concerns, particularly in relation to competition. In addition, it is not possible for ComReg to give blanket assurances that spectrum sharing and pooling agreements will be permitted because the benefits and disadvantages arising from any particular agreement will depend on the specifics of the arrangement and the application of relevant telecommunications and competition law to those specifics.
That said, interested parties will be aware that ComReg’s examination of a collaboration proposal will, of course, occur within the context of its statutory functions, objectives and duties and, given this, interested parties should be in a position to identify for themselves the types of potential issues and concerns that could be raised by collaboration.
For example, potential issues and concerns, such as in relation to:
• competition issues arising from proposed collaboration between actual and potential competitors;
• the impact of collaboration proposals on efficient spectrum use and effective spectrum management; and/or
• whether any potential restriction on competition (and other potential drawbacks) would be more than compensated for by the cost savings and other benefits that would be passed on to final consumers.
Given that the nature and extent of such issues will clearly depend on the specifics of the proposed collaboration, ComReg cannot be said to have a firm view on the issue of spectrum rights sharing (or pooling) other than that it would look more favourably on agreements that do not overly restrict competition and deliver demonstrable benefits that are shared with final consumers.
Finally, ComReg expects that licences it will issue will permit an undertaking contemplate any form of collaboration that it may wish to consider. Clearly, however, ComReg will need to satisfy itself that collaboration proposals are not objectionable having regard to its statutory functions, objectives and duties and that the said proposals are compatible with competition law. Please also note that there are strict controls on contacts between interested parties in the spectrum process, as laid out in Section 3.3.5 on Page 65 of the Information Memorandum (12/52)}.
Source: Silicon Republic. 12th October 2012.

National Broadband Plan 2012

October 16th, 2012

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte says his national broadband plan is “the rural electrification of the 21st century”.
The Minister outlined a series of “ambitious” targets to be met within the lifetime of the Government. He said 70-100Mbps should be available to at least 50 per cent of the population.
At least 40Mbps should be available to at least a further 20 per cent of the population and a minimum of 30Mbps available to all.
Mr Rabbitte said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had given him a commitment the State would provide funding of €200 million along with matching investment from private companies.
Mr Rabbitte unveiled Delivering a Connected Society – A National Broadband Plan for Ireland in Croke Park this morning. The plan is based broadly on the Report of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce, published last May.
The taskforce’s membership included the chief executives of the six main telecoms service providers in Ireland.
State aid clearance by the European Commission will almost certainly be required to guarantee public funds are not substituting for potential private sector investment.
Preparation of that application is to start straight away, and the public funding may come from either the exchequer, the sale of State assets or other sources such as the National Pension Reserve Fund.
The Coalition is committed in the programme for government “to provide next generation broadband to every home and business in the State”. The plan being announced will set out the “policy and investment framework” to deliver this commitment.
Ronan Lupton of telecoms lobby group Alto said previous administrations had drawn up ambitious broadband plans, but the key now was to “implement and execute” the current plans.
He also said local government should be “encouraged to have broadband strategy at the front of their minds”.
The number of broadband subscribers in Ireland has grown from just over 400,000 to nearly 1.7 million over the past five years.
MARY MINIHAN and DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN, Political Correspondent
Source: Irish Times
30th August 2012

Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010

October 6th, 2010

oireachtasThe Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 (2010 Act) has passed through the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into Irish law by the President on 26th July 2010. The main body of the 2010 Act came into force under a Commencement Order on the 28th of September. A number of other sections and related consequential amendments will commence at a later date.
The 2010 Act has the following implications on owners of network infrastructure.

1. Impact on Local Planning Procedures
In future local development plans and local area plans must be consistent with national and regional development objectives as set out in the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and regional planning guidelines. In the past, local authorities were obliged to “have regard” to the NSS and regional planning guidelines, but not to necessarily comply with them. The 2010 Act requires local authorities to develop a “core strategy” to ensure adherence to the NSS and regional development plans, and to vary development plans where this is not demonstrated. The revision of development plans has already commenced. Telecoms operators may utilise these provisions to press for change where the telecoms policy of existing local development plans conflicts with national and regional policy. Obvious targets in this regard include Kerry County Council’s Development Plan where telecoms infrastructure is not permitted within 1km of places of human occupancy and Sligo County Council, where infrastructure is not permitted within 400m of a dwelling.

2. Default Planning Permission
Under the Planning and Development Act 2000 (2000 Act) local authorities had 8 weeks within which to decide, refuse or request further information in relation to a new planning application. Where none of these options were exercised permission issued by default. Under the 2010 Act local authorities now have a further 12 weeks in addition to the core 8 week period to remedy a failure to make a decision. The effect of this provision is to safeguard local authorities from inadvertently granting planning permissions owing to a punishing default position contained in the 2000 Act.

3. Extensions of Planning Permission
Tower developers may apply for extensions on the duration of a planning permission where the development is not completed. The 2000 Act allowed for extensions of permission only where the development was substantially completed, the 2010 Act allows for an extension where the development did not proceed due to “commercial, economic or technical” issues beyond the control of the applicant. Where operators hold unbuilt ‘live’ planning permissions with future development prospects the opportunity now exists to apply for the extension of permission. It shall not be possible to apply for an extension to the original permission earlier than 12 months from the date of expiry of that permission. An applicant may extend a particular permission on one occasion only.

4. Refusal of Planning Permission due to Prior Breach
Under the 2000 Act a local authority or An Bord Pleanála may refuse permission where an applicant has previously failed to comply with a planning permission or a condition attaching to a permission. Under the 2010 Act permission can now be refused if a person has either carried out a substantial unauthorised development or has been convicted of an offence under the 2000 Act. The applicant must receive prior notification of the intention to refuse permission affording him/her the opportunity to make submissions. The remedy is for the applicant to apply to the High Court (within eight weeks of notification) for an Order annulling the planning authority’s decision. Operators should continue to comply with planning permissions and with all conditions attaching and not to leave themselves open to the above provisions.

Rural Broadband Scheme

October 6th, 2010

rural-broadband2Kildare North TD and Minister of State Aine Brady has been informed that the EU have allocated funds from the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) for Rural Broadband Initiatives to cover areas that are not covered by the current Broadband Schemes.

‘The Department of Communications is currently progressing the design and implementation of a scheme which could use this EU funding to address the issue of basic Broadband availability to currently unserved rural areas, primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.)’

‘Despite Government Funding in Broadband Infrastructure, through schemes like the Group Broadband Scheme, Metropolitan Network Area Programme, the National Broadband Scheme and significant investment from the private sector, we still have a small percentage of premises that do not have access to Broadband.’

‘The Funding allocated from the EU is for rural Broadband Initiatives and it will involve the identification of premises currently not capable of receiving Broadband. It is hoped to commence the scheme later this year and have it completed by 2012. Details of broadband services available in each county can be found on ComReg’s website at www.callcosts.ie and precise details of the electoral divisions throughout the State that are included in the National Broadband Scheme can be viewed on the Department’s website www.dcenr.ie.’ concluded Minister Brady.

New Entrants to the Mobile Market

October 6th, 2010

emobile-just-mobile-logosTwo recent entrants to the mobile phone market brings to eight the number of mobile phone services in Ireland.

eMobile, the new mobile phone brand from Eircom, will create 50 jobs in retail outlets and will be supported by a EUR2.5 million marketing campaign. The company’s existing mobile brand, Meteor, has targeted the under 25s, eMobile will target an older segment, including existing Eircom landline and broadband customers; both brands will use the 085 prefix.

Just Mobile, a new Swords-based mobile operator will begin offering its services next month. The mobile virtual network operator is partnering with Spar to operate a pre-paid mobile phone service. The service will use Vodafone’s network, it plans to be cheaper than the main four networks. It is targeting students and other price-conscious consumers.

eMobile and Just Mobile join the four main operators in addition to Tesco and Postfone in providing national mobile phone services.

UK Watch

October 6th, 2010

fibre-broadbandBT is bringing fibre broadband to 90 percent of Cornwall by 2014. Cornwall is using £53.5m of EU funding to help finance the project, while BT is adding a further £78.5m. Under the project half the population in the county will be given up to 100Mbits/sec fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) lines, with 35 percent given up to 40Mbits/sec via the slower fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). With FTTC copper lines converge at a fibre enabled cabinet situated in close proximity to the premises. Where FTTP or FTTC is not available, the remaining premises (10%) will get their broadband via satellite or wireless. It is reported that the project will benefit tens of thousands of local businesses, create 4,000 new local jobs and protect a further 2,000.

Source: Techeye.net. 1st October 2010