Broadband services

Will Liberty & Vodafone Strike a Deal? What Will It Mean for Headcount?

Seemingly unperturbed by regulatory challenges, Liberty Global and Vodafone are said to be close to striking an M&A deal that would create a significant pan-European, broadband access powerhouse that would have incumbent operators frothing at the mouth.

The tie-up has been a top topic of speculation for some time now and has been the subject of intense analysis, especially as related to the complications of combining the German assets of the two network operators. (See Vodafone-Liberty Merger Doubtful in Germany, Says Analyst.)

It's certainly top of many agendas in Germany, where Vodafone already is a major cable access player: According to Reuters, glass fiber manufacturers are concerned about the potential creation of a supremely dominant cable company.

Nevertheless, Reuters also reports that some sort of major agreement between the two parties is imminent, possibly to coincide with upcoming earnings announcements from both Liberty and Vodafone (May 9 and 15, respectively).

Any such deal would be pored over from multiple angles but high up the list of "things to consider" of any consolidation move by Liberty and Vodafone would be the impact on jobs. As Light Reading has reported, the headcount erosion at network operators is accelerating as M&A and automation efforts put positions at risk. Just consider these articles from the past two days:

That's not to say that any deal between Liberty and Vodafone would automatically result in significant job cuts: The impact on jobs would be determined by the markets involved. It's fair to say, though, that this isn't a scenario where jobs would be created.

For the record, Vodafone employs more than 100,000 staff globally: Liberty Global has about 27,000 staff.

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But, in time, there will certainly be fewer operators and fewer jobs across Europe's communications services sector -- it's an inevitability. Europe still has hundreds of operators, too many to survive independently in a cloud-based, web services-oriented 5G future, where integrated fixed-mobile assets will be a mainstay of basic survival for asset-based operations. If Vodafone and Liberty don't do a deal with each other now, they will do so at some point, maybe with other parties.

That much needed consolidation, and the introduction of automated processes in call centers and, increasingly, network operations will ultimately eat away at operator staffing numbers.

New skills, new working practices and new mindsets are required. For those employed by today's fixed, mobile and cable network operators, a proactive analysis of in-demand skillsets might be in order.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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