Planned O2 withdrawal leaves Starmap on the brink, papers say

18 Oct 2006

Europe’s Starmap Mobile Alliance is on the verge of collapse with O2 Group, a founding member and the largest operator involved, looking to exit the partnership, according to the Independent. O2 plans to withdraw from Starmap following its takeover by Telefónica of Spain in January. A condition of the acquisition was that Telefónica withdrew its participation from the larger FreeMove mobile alliance to allay fears that the merged company would distort international roaming charges. Telefónica is now looking to pull O2 out of Starmap and instead work with the Spanish group’s other subsidiaries to provide roaming and data services across Europe. O2 will maintain bilateral roaming agreements with the remaining members of the alliance, but the Independent claims this may not be enough to secure Starmap’s future. The Alliance was founded in late 2003 to offer pan-European roaming services between a number of smaller European operators in competition to the worldwide operations of Vodafone Group, and was also designed to give its operators greater power when procuring handsets. However, the withdrawal of O2 comes less than a year after the loss of France Télécom, which was forced to exit following its acquisition of Amena in Spain, and means Starmap is now severely hampered with no partner networks in major markets including the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Ireland. The remaining members of the alliance are Italy’s Wind, Pannon in Hungary, Norway’s Telenor, Connect Austria and TDC Switzerland.