The European Commission (EC) opened an in-depth investigation into satellite player Viasat’s proposed acquisition of peer Inmarsat, citing concerns about reduced competition for in-flight connectivity.

In a statement outlining its preliminary issues with the deal the EC noted the two were close competitors and went head-to-head for the same commercial airline tenders.

It raised concerns the acquisition could cut competition in a market where there are currently few alternative suppliers. It also noted the pair operate in a space which has a relatively high barrier to entry.

As part of its investigation, the EC plans to assess whether the emergence of players using satellites at other altitudes were likely to exert competitive pressure in the future.

The regulator has until 29 June to make a decision on the deal, which is also the subject of a detailed probe in the UK carrying a deadline of 30 March.

In a joint response to the EC investigation being opened, Viasat and Inmarsat stated they would continue to engage with the authority.

The pair added they were “confident that the proposed combination will strengthen competition in the growing satellite communications market”, claiming joining forces would allow them to offer “innovative new services to its customers in Europe and around the world”.

Both companies supply in-flight connectivity from respective GEO satellite fleets, with Viasat owning and operating four birds along with third-party leasing capacity, and Inmarsat a fleet of 15.