Orange set to finally merge with T-Mobile

Steve Dinneen
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ORANGE and T-Mobile look set to become the UK’s biggest network after their long anticipated merger received the thumbs up from Brussels.

A drawn-out investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) looked likely but a string of concessions appear to have smoothed the way for the merger to go ahead as early as this week. It is expected both brands will be retained.

The most important concession is a new deal struck with 3, the UK’s smallest mobile network, to allow it to use 16,000 of the new firm’s mast sites, 3,000 more than under its previous deal with T-Mobile. Orange and T-Mobile have also agreed to relinquish a quarter of the contentious 1800MHz bandwidth, which allows super-fast fourth generation mobile internet.

The deal will be pushed through after a sensational turnaround by the OFT, who had previously raised grave concerns about the impact a merger could have on competition. The European Commission had until 1 March to decide whether it would allow the OFT to conduct its own investigation, a scenario Orange and T-Mobile were desperate to avoid as a decision could have dragged on until the autumn. Remaining concerns by rivals O2 and Vodafone, who are unhappy with the amount of spectrum to be released by the pair, will fall on deaf ears.

The merger between France Telecom’s Orange and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile will have almost 30m customers, rocketing ahead of closest rival O2, owned by Spain’s Telefonica.

The new company will control 37 per cent of the UK mobile market, overtaking O2.

It will share 16,000 masts with 3, the UK’s smallest mobile network and will hand back a quarter of the valuable 1800MHz spectrum