3UK has filed a complaint with the European Commission and is asking for the mobile commerce joint venture formed in June by Vodafone, Telefónica's O2 UK and Everything Everywhere to be scrapped--unless it is allowed to join.
3UK's regulatory affairs director, Stephen Lerner, was harsh in his condemnation of the as-yet unnamed JV, claiming that its exclusion was designed to weaken 3UK's ability to compete in the UK.
"We are asking the Commission to take a clear view of what is at stake for consumers and the dangerous precedent this move could set across Europe for the incumbents to freeze out challengers," Lerner told Reuters. "Instead of competing for the benefit of consumers, the three operators that hold 90 per cent of the UK market have engaged in a cosy collaboration and closed ranks against competition."
In response to this objection, the JV said that 3UK would have equal access to the platform, but not as a shareholder. "In fact the success of the venture depends upon its technology being available so that anyone can create m-commerce services and reach the widest possible audience," a JV spokesperson told the Guardian newspaper.
The JV noted: "Everything Everywhere, Telefónica and Vodafone felt it made sense to bring their expertise and experience together to get the venture up and running as quickly as possible, before turning to the industry for further participation," an observation seen as referring to 3UK's reported lack of interest in NFC technology and deployment.
While it still remains unclear how the m-commerce JV will work or what its business structure will look like, the JV has confirmed that discussions with the European Commission have already taken place and a formal submission will be made later this year.
Commenting on the simmering dispute, Will Draper, head of telecoms research at the financial service firm Espirito Santo, said: "I can see why they [3UK] feel disappointed--the fact is that they are not a significant player in the UK mobile market."
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