The European Commission (EC) has moved the provisional deadline for completing its review of the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Tele2 in the Netherlands to 30 November 2018, compared to an original date of 17 October. The merger deal – announced in December 2017 and formally submitted to the EC in May 2018 – would combine the Netherlands’ third and fourth largest mobile operators, leapfrogging VodafoneZiggo as the second-largest cellco by users whilst creating a larger fixed/mobile challenger to the dominant two converged telecoms groups (KPN and VodafoneZiggo).
The EC is investigating whether the merger would lead to higher prices and reduced choice for end-users via the reduction of facilities-based mobile operators from four to three, potentially also limiting the merged entity’s incentives to invest in network development.
As such, the Commission has outlined two specific angles that it is examining:
• ‘The reduction in the number of mobile network operators following the merger may weaken competitive pressure and increase the likelihood that operators would coordinate their competitive behaviour, and raise prices on the retail markets.’
• ‘The Commission is concerned that prospective and existing mobile virtual network operators [MVNOs] may face more difficulties in obtaining favourable wholesale access terms from mobile network operators [following the merger].’