BT Group issued staunch opposition to a proposed tie-up of Vodafone Group and CK Hutchison’s UK operations, arguing the deal raises serious antitrust concerns, will deter investment and ultimately harm its ability to compete.

The UK telecoms giant set out its opposition to the deal in a 40-page document issued to the country’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which had asked industry players to provide feedback on the Vodafone UK, 3 UK deal as part of its phase two investigation into the merger.

It has now published ten of those responses, with BT setting out why it believes the tie-up should be blocked by regulators.

Among its concerns, BT argued the proposed deal will create a merged entity with a disproportionate share of capacity and spectrum, “unprecedented in the UK and western European mobile markets”.

In addition, BT said it agreed with CMA’s phase one conclusion around concerns about lower levels of investment from the merged entity in a UK initiative to boost rural connectivity.

The merger, if cleared, “will give rise to a substantial lessening of competition in the UK mobile telecoms market, ultimately resulting in higher prices, poorer network quality and reduced incentives to invest – all to the detriment of UK consumers.

Ericsson gives thumbs up
On the other side of the argument was Ericsson, which told the CMA the deal could create a more sustainable market structure.

“Consolidation is broadly seen as a pivotal measure towards helping operators attain the necessary scale for expanding their future network infrastructure, “ wrote the Swedish vendor.

It has been exactly a year since Vodafone announced the £15 billion deal, which cleared a major hurdle last month in being given conditional security clearance by the UK government. However, it still faces CMA’s ongoing competition probe.

The watchdog stated the phase two investigation is expected to last until at least 12 October 2024.