Vodafone’s chief exec Vittorio Colao has gone head to head with BT, lashing out at the upcoming BT-EE merger, which he attacks as the “re-monopolisation” of the telecoms market.
“We see attempts to re-monopolise European markets, and that isn’t good,” said Colao.
His attack follows the by the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) provisional approval of the £12.5bn mega merger between BT and EE, currently owned by Orange and Deutsche Telekom, which the Vodafone exec described as creating “excessive dominance” which will “30 years of progress” for telecoms markets in Europe.
Colao is calling on the European Commission’s Margrethe Vestager to launch a probe into the telecoms giants’ dominance, and for Openreach to be split off from BT into a separate, independent company.
Vodafone, like other providers currently dependent on access to the telecom giants’ copper networks, is particularly critical of BT’s refusal to give up on copper in favour of fibre, something Colao said is holding back UK broadband speeds, causing the UK to fall behind other countries such as Italy:
We are the fourth-largest provider of broadband in Europe but we do not get the access or the service we need. In the UK, Openreach delivers just half of what we request on time — that’s really bad.
BT immediately hit back, with a spokesperson criticising Colao’s comments as “wildly misleading”, pointing out that the UK’s broadband is “streets ahead” of Italy’s and that the company’s 33 per cent market share is one of the lowest in Europe:
The UK is one of the most competitive telecoms markets in the world and it is highly misleading to suggest otherwise.
Speaking to City A.M. Colao commented that BT was deliberately missing his point:
In my apartment in Milan, I have three choices of fibre available to me. My london flat, which is just as centrally located, has just one slow copper network, and my son kills internet speeds every time he watches Netflix.
Today’s clash follows Vodafone’s terminated talks with Liberty Global, which fell through in late September. News the much-anticipated deal had been cancelled sent stocks tumbling to their lowest point in 2015.
Investors had plenty more to smile about today, though: Vodafone’s half-year results showed a return to strength for the firm, with revenues smashing expectations.