Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty


Welcome to my blog, featuring industry musings and opinions on the latest products

By kateoflaherty, Feb 5 2015 12:26PM

What was once a market of five mobile operators is about to become three after BT confirmed today (5 February) it will acquire EE for £12.5bn. With Three also poised to buy O2, consolidation is set to continue.

So what does this mean for the mobile market? With three operator giants, several big MVNOs in Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and the upcoming Sky network, competition could ramp up significantly. This will see sheer scale potentially pushing costs down.

But it could face delays. Behind the scenes, things are more complex: it is likely the regulator will be watching the market closely. According to Matthew Howett, practice leader, regulation at Ovum, the competition investigation for the BT/EE deal is likely to focus on network issues such as spectrum holdings and wholesale access. He points out: "BT was particularly successful in the 2013 4G auction, acquiring spectrum at 2.6GHz - and the inquiry is likely to assess what adding this to EE’s already sizable lot will mean."

This, he says, is further complicated by the planned acquisition of O2 by Three: the combined entity would itself hold a concentration of the lower frequency spectrum - which is ideal for providing coverage - but lack the higher frequency spectrum at 2.6GHz needed for capacity. Howett predicts that there could be a reorganisation of spectrum holdings between the two enlarged operators as a result.

Additionally, Three, O2 and Vodafone are worried the BT/EE acquisition could impact on them getting a fair deal in the future, since they all currently rely on BT's wholesale products for backhauling traffic.

But once these issues are resolved, the consumer can start to benefit. If BT/EE and Three/O2 are approved, the market will comprise three operator giants, several big brand MVNOs, and multiple smaller offerings. Choice will be vast, potentially pushing prices down - which can only be a good thing.

By kateoflaherty, Sep 19 2012 10:15AM

Sons of Anarchy, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire are branded among the finest TV of the decade, but for those without a Sky contract it could be a frustrating wait of a year or more before they can watch the shows legitimately.

For this reason among others, 'piracy' is widespread throughout the internet generation. On one side, musicians' careers can be ruined in a digital age when fans download music for free. Film and TV studios also suffer, according to the rights holders affected by losses from downloaded content.

But according to a recent report, downloaders of copyrighted material will not get away without punishment. In fact, the IP addresses of torrent users are collected and could be handed over to copyright holders at any point, scaremongerers said.

It's true that when the Digital Economy Act (DEA) comes into place in 2014 and warning letters are sent out by broadband providers, the landscape will start to look very different. But despite incoming legislation and website take downs, it appears lawmakers are failing to address the issue - availability of content.

Most downloaders say they would pay for material if it was readily available and at a decent price, and many of them already have contracts with LoveFilm and Netflix. In the age of the internet, £40 per month TV contracts are outdated and expensive for those who just want to watch several shows a year.

Netflix and LoveFilm have gone some way to addressing this, but content is fairly sparse and out of date. Sky's Now TV, which allows users to pay-as-you-go for films and TV, is an exciting prospect but at the moment content is limited to films and it is already looking pretty expensive.

To add to this, DVD box sets are not available until a year after they've aired, forcing fans to face an excruciating wait. Until an affordable, accessible and content-heavy streaming service is available, it is likely that many will continue to download illegally.

Only Sky's Now TV holds any hope of offering users the content they want, when they want but with a severe lack of competition in the area, Sky could get away with charging ludicrous prices. Only time will tell whether those who don't want to face prosecution will get to catch up with their favourite shows before the end of the year.

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