UK incumbent BT emerged as a surprise ally to Google in an ongoing row between the US company and EU antitrust regulators regarding the Android operating system (OS).
A BT company representative confirmed its lawyers provided a full statement to the EU defending Google against charges regarding the competitiveness of Android.
In its submission to regulators, BT – which owns EE, the UK’s largest operator by connections – rejected all accusations made against Google and highlighted the operator’s positive experiences working with the Android platform.
BT’s company representative said: “We can confirm that our legal team has written to the European Commission regarding their investigation. We told them BT is free to pre-install its own or third party apps on devices alongside pre-loaded Google apps. We also said that, as an app provider, we value the ongoing stability and compatibility of operating systems, whether they are ‘open source’ or ‘closed source’. This is why we welcome anti-fragmentation initiatives such as Google’s”.
The EU opened an investigation into Android in 2015 following complaints Google hindered the development and access of rival apps and services by requiring operators and device manufacturers to pre-install specific Google apps – including the company’s search engine – in order to use the Play Store.
In its preliminary findings, published in April 2016, the EU said Google abused its “dominant position” by imposing restrictions on device manufacturers and mobile operators which then stifle competition – both in terms of the app market and the wider OS ecosystem.
Google SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker in November responded, issuing a statement arguing the Android OS had not restricted competition but expanded it. He said: “The Android ecosystem carefully balances the interests of users, developers, hardware makers, and mobile network operators.”
Walker highlighted Google’s latest user data which said the average Android user downloaded 50 apps during the lifetime of the device – implying users download whatever apps they want irrespective of those pre-installed.
The EU’s investigation is ongoing with the company also fighting separate EU antitrust cases related to its search business.