Vodafone UK chief Ahmed Essam (pictured) pushed the need for a third strong player to vie with BT’s EE and Virgin Media O2 in a self-penned article printed in newspaper City AM in which he held up the US as a beacon of positive mobile M&A.
In the submission, Essam reiterated Vodafone’s belief a merger of its unit with 3 UK would be beneficial to the market and dismissed any perceived national security issues raised in local media deriving from its would-be partner’s links to Hong Kong.
The executive claimed the combination of T-Mobile US and Sprint in 2020 put pressure on Verizon and AT&T, ultimately leading to a “massive increase in 5G investment” by all parties, using it as an example of how the UK market could go should Vodafone’s own merger go through.
Essam explained the two “big, dominant players” in EE and Virgin Media O2 would be given a “healthy dose of competition that would force them to up their game, to the benefit of all customers” aiding consumers in the fixed and mobile sectors.
He also asserted there would be benefits in the wholesale market and dismissed potential national security concerns raised by “some commentators”, given the ownership of 3 UK being based in “Chinese-controlled Hong Kong”.
The latter comment follows reports in The Times and other publications stating some politicians had raised this as a potential issue.
Essam’s contribution to City AM comes ahead of regulatory scrutiny of Vodafone’s proposed tie-up with 3, a deal finally struck earlier this month after lengthy negotiations between the pair.
The deal will have to clear various official hurdles, including approval under the UK National Security and Investment Act, and be cleared by the UK Competition and Markets Authority.