Vodafone Denies TalkTalk’s MVNO Exit Claims

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone says it was TalkTalk that ended their MVNO agreement and has no plans to exit MVNO market

Vodafone has denied it is exiting the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) market, following claims by TalkTalk that the Newbury-based firm ended their agreement “without warning” in November.

In a submission to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into BT’s £12.5 billion acquisition of EE, TalkTalk said Vodafone had also ended agreements with Sainsbury’s and Carphone Warehouse.

TalkTalk claims

Vodafone Smart Ultra 6“We now understand that Vodafone is in the process of withdrawing entirely from the MVNO market,” said TalkTalk. “A firm with no active MVNO agreements in place … cannot be considered to be a competitor in the wholesale MVNO market.”

The company adds it believes BT would restrict fixed rival’s access to the EE network if the acquisition is approved, limiting its own, and Sky and Virgin Media’s, bargaining power as O2 would be the only remaining option.

Unlike the fixed broadband, wholesale access to the four mobile operator’s networks is not regulated.

TalkTalk says a competitive MVNO market is necessary due to other barriers preventing entry into the mobile market, such as access to mast infrastructure, the prohibitive cost of deploying its own equipment and a lack of suitable spectrum.

The CMA confirmed last week it will examine whether the wholesale mobile market will be affected, while Ofcom is also concerned.

However Vodafone told TechWeekEurope there were no such plans in place, suggesting it was TalkTalk which ended their partnership in favour of a new agreement with O2, which will start next year.

Vodafone denial

“We have no plans to exit the UK MVNO market and we are informing the CMA of the correct position today. Vodafone cannot comment on individual commercial decisions made by its partners but the decision to terminate the TalkTalk MVNO agreement was not made by Vodafone,” said the company. “TalkTalk announced an MVNO deal with O2 and we continue to provide MVNO services to Sainsbury’s and Talk Mobile.”

The deal with O2 was announced last November and at the time TalkTalk claimed the new arrangement would have a number of benefits over its partnership with Vodafone, such as the ability to offer 4G and potentially create a hybrid ‘inside-out’ architecture comprising its MVNO and fixed network.

TalkTalk declined to expand on the claims made in its submission when asked by TechWeekEurope.

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