The managing director of British mobile network operator T-Mobile UK, Richard Moat, has said that his company would prefer its proposed tie-up with Orange UK to be considered by the European Union (EU), rather than UK authorities. According to Bloomberg, Moat has claimed that if the merger proposals were examined by the EU ‘then you could be looking at approval like the end of February 2010’, while if Britain’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is called on to study the plans then ‘approval could be given in 2011’. While the executive has argued that a possible approval by the EU would be significantly faster, he has claimed that he would not expect either body to be more favourable towards T-Mobile in the matter. The claims come after the OFT earlier this month, as reported by CommsUpdate, said it would consider whether to make a formal request for the proposals to be referred to it for review.
T-Mobile, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, and Orange, a unit of France Telecom, announced in September 2009 that they had entered exclusive negotiations over a possible tie-up, and signed a final binding agreement in November 2009, but the plans have come in for criticism from both other operators and consumer groups. According to Ronan Dunne, CEO of the UK’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, O2, the merger could ‘distort the market’ by giving one company control over a significant share of spectrum in the 1800MHz band. When complete, the merged entity will hold a total of 170MHz of spectrum, but Orange and T-Mobile have claimed that there is no reason to release frequencies when the tie-up is finalised; by comparison rival cellco Vodafone holds 76MHz of spectrum, while Hutchison 3G UK has just 15MHz.