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Vodafone denies claims it will stop other providers using its mobile network

Tuesday, July 21st 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Vodafone has denied claims it is planning to stop allowing other mobile providers to use its network.

The operator said it has no plans to exit the UK MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) market, contrary to claims made by TalkTalk in a document handed to the competitions watchdog.

An MVNO is a mobile provider that effectively piggybacks on an operator’s network to provide services to its customers.

As part of its submissions to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about the potential merger of BT and EE , TalkTalk made the claims about Vodafone to suggest that it would further reduce the number of mobile operators available to MVNOs.

TalkTalk’s submission said: “We now understand that Vodafone is in the process of withdrawing entirely from the MVNO market.

“TalkTalk understands that Vodafone has served notice to terminate the MVNO agreement that it has in place with Sainsbury's, and the agreement it had with Carphone Warehouse is also ending.”

It claimed that Vodafone had also chosen to terminate TalkTalk's MVNO agreement without warning.

“A firm with no active MVNO agreements in place (that are not in their notice periods) and which is [redacted], cannot be considered to be a competitor in the wholesale MVNO market,” the document added.

'No plans to exit'

“In the appropriate counterfactual to the proposed BT/EE merger, O2 will have been acquired by Three. Prior to the BT/EE merger there will therefore already be only two potential MNO suppliers to a firm wishing to enter into a new or extended MVNO agreement (EE and the merged Three/O2).”

But Vodafone denied the claims, saying it has no plans to exit the UK MVNO market, and will continue to provide services to Sainsbury’s and Talk Mobile.

In a statement, the company said: “We have no plans to exit the UK MVNO market and we are informing the CMA of the correct position today.

“Vodafone cannot comment on individual commercial decisions made by its partners but the decision to terminate the TalkTalk MVNO agreement was not made by Vodafone.

“TalkTalk announced an MVNO deal with O2 and we continue to provide MVNO services to Sainsbury’s and Talk Mobile.”

Cable.co.uk previously reported that Vivian Woodell, CEO of the Phone Co-op, said the UK's mobile industry should be re-regulated and opened up to encourage more innovation.

Mr Woodell said MVNOs face a number of barriers to entry, including high set-up costs and monthly charges, uncompetitive wholesale rates and a lack of choice.

He suggested that the mobile market should be more like the fixed line network, which is maintained by Openreach and gives communications providers equal access to BT's copper and fibre infrastructure.

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