Eurobites: Vodafone, Three UK 'in talks' over possible merger – report

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: former Ofcom boss joins Vodafone as non-exec; Three to close 3G network in 2024; why phones and beer don't mix.

  • Vodafone is in discussions about a possible merger of its UK unit with Three UK, the British offshoot of the Hong Kong based CK Hutchison empire, according to a report in the Financial Times (paywall applies). In recent months there have been signs of shareholder agitation at Vodafone, with some influential investors expressing their dismay at the group's lack of progress in the dealmaking department. Such a deal, if it came off, would reduce the number of major mobile networks in the UK from four to three, so the competition authorities may well raise an eyebrow. In 2016, the European Commisson blocked a proposed merger between O2 and Three. (See The dubious logic of UK resistance to mobile mergers.)

  • Will having a former boss of UK communications regulator Ofcom on its board help Vodafone in its case for consolidation? Hard to say, but it has appointed Stephen Carter – former Ofcom boss and current CEO of Light Reading parent company Informa – as a non-executive director. Carter has also held various senior executive positions at Alcatel-Lucent.

  • And away from the merger chat, Three UK has announced that it's switching off its 3G network – Britain's first – at the end of 2024. In a statement, Three said that turning off its 3G would "allow the company to focus investments and spectrum resources on further improving 4G customer experience, while rolling out 5G." Currently, Three says it covers 99% of the UK outdoor population with its combined 3G and 4G network and carries 28% of mobile data traffic in the country. This comes as Three completes a 15-month, cloud-based "transformation project" with US software vendor Amdocs that is intended to sharpen up Three's act on the enterprise front.

  • Slovenia's Iskratel says that its two latest home gateways, the Innbox G92 and Innbox E92, have been successfully tested by a number of operators looking to provide a "premium Wi-Fi 6 experience." Zeop, a fiber network provider in La Réunion, was one of the companies doing the testing, and it plans to begin the deployment of advanced GPON home gateways in a few months' time.

  • BT Digital, the unit responsible for steering BT's internal "digital transformation," has plumped for the ServiceNow platform, which will, according to BT, replace 56 existing service management channels, "dramatically simplify" service management processes and save it more than £25 million ($30.4 million) by 2027.

  • The European Commission has adopted a new European strategy designed to help children stay more safe online. The Better Internet for Kids (BIK+) strategy aims to provide accessible, age-appropriate online content and services that are in children's best interests.

  • The average Brit puts up with a cracked mobile phone screen for 49 days before bothering to get it fixed. And, for lovers of intact screens, beer gardens are the most dangerous places to be. Who knew? These were some of the findings of a survey by UK mobile operator EE, which just happens to be launching a new in-store "superfast" screen repair service.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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