Irish pay TV broadcaster Setanta could become the third company to set up a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on the "new" 3 Ireland network after reports emerged this week that the company is in talks with the Hutchison Whampoa-owned operator.
According to the Irish Times, the two companies are understood to have been in talks on a deal over the past two months and Setanta hopes to launch a mobile service by the end of this year.
The reports about Setanta follow earlier speculation that Carphone Warehouse and Liberty Global-owned cable operator UPC also plan to take advantage of new MVNO rules in this market following the European Commission's approval of Hutchison Whampoa's €850 million ($1.15 billion) takeover of O2 Ireland from Telefónica.
Hutchison Whampoa agreed to allow two MVNOs on the 3 Ireland network in order to secure anti-trust approval. Eventually, one MVNO must also be given an option to buy spectrum in order to become a full network operator.
This was to allay regulatory concerns that a reduction in the number of mobile operators from four to three would have a serious impact on consumer prices and competition.
3 Ireland competes with Vodafone Ireland and the incumbent operator Eircom in a very competitive market environment. Eircom sells mobile services under the Meteor and eMobile brand names and is also the only provider of any kind of multi-service bundling as it allows mobile plans to be bundled together with triple-play TV, broadband and fixed voice plans from Eircom.
The Irish Times noted that Vodafone Ireland is the largest mobile player while the merger of 3 and 02 would create a major competitor with a 37 per cent market share.
The European Commission has also recently approved Telefónica Deutschland's planned €8.6 billion ($11.7 billion) acquisition of KPN's German mobile business E-Plus. Telefónica committed to sell up to 30 per cent of the merged company's network capacity to up to three MVNOs.
- see this Irish Times article
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