Vodafone chief calls for consolidation amid fears European mobile operators are falling behind
Vodafone chief urges policymakers to allow European mobile operators to merge and consolidate as firms feel mounting pressure.
European telecoms companies face a bill of up to €300bn to roll out super fast 5G across the continent, which some argue is made harder by regulators demanding multiple operators compete in each market to keep consumer bills low.
Vodafone chief exec Nick Read said the pandemic accelerated the need for reliable and fast networks, and prompted regulators to focus on the value of investment in this space.
“COVID has really opened the eyes of policymakers to say ‘Have we got this right?’,” Read said in a press meeting following Vodafone’s quarterly results.
“And I argue there needs to be a new balance (…) Of course we want competition. But at the same time, we need to encourage investment in next generation infrastructure to remain globally competitive.”
Whilst Europe has hundreds of main telecom players, the US, for instance, has three, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Read has been an advocate for consolidation for a while now, and has suggested that if this doesn’t happen soon, European firms will fall behind US and Asian firms.
The firm is reportedly in talks with Iliad, a smaller Italian telecoms operator, over a deal to combine their businesses to end intense competition in Italy.
A deal between Vodafone and Three UK has also been floated in the City for years, but no developments have been announced.
Read did admit that Vodafone were pursuing mergers with rivals in multiple European markets, listing Spain, Italy, Portugal and the UK.
“Especially in Denmark, the state of competition isn’t sustainable, and it needs to be consolidated. We have tried it before but weren’t allowed to,” he added.