T-Mobile And Orange Merge Network Coverage

Orange and T-Mobile customers in the UK will now begin to see the Orange or T-Mobile symbols on their phones, as the two operators began sharing their mobile networks on 5 October.

Everything Everywhere first announced the decision early last month to allow Orange and T-Mobile customers to use the two UK networks interchangeably.

This means that when a user loses a mobile phone signal, the handset will lock onto either the T-Mobile or Orange signal, depending on which is stronger. Essentially it works in the same way as mobile roaming does when you are abroad.

Mobile Roaming

“Orange and T-Mobile today enabled their networks to let customers access both networks so they can make calls and send texts in more places in the UK at no extra cost,” said Orange in an emailed statement to eWEEK Europe UK.

“We’re contacting all of our customers to let them know and those who want to benefit can sign up at www.orange.co.uk/share or www.t-mobile.co.uk/share,” it added. “Once registered, should a customer lose signal on their existing network, they will then automatically pick up signal from the other network where it’s available.”

It seems that Orange and T-Mobile customers will only pay UK charges. But it is unclear at this time whether customers will still have to pay to call people on the other network, despite the fact that they are now part of the same entity.

It is thought that as of next year, the integration of the two mobile networks will be improved to such an extent that customers will be automatically switched to whichever of the signals is stronger in mid-call. The improvements will also include better data coverage.

Everything Everywhere officially began operations as the UK’s biggest mobile operator back in July, with more than 30 million customers, or as the company points out, nearly half the entire UK population of about 61 million. The operator is jointly owned by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, which are respectively the owners of the Orange and T-Mobile brands.

The operator had approximately 16,000 staff, but last week it announced it was axing 1,200 jobs after a 19 percent fall in profits, and a 4.8 percent fall in second quarter revenues to £1.7 billion.

Protracted Merger

The process of merging the two operators has been a lengthy affair.

Deutsche Telekom first put the T-Mobile UK unit up for sale in May 2009. Vodafone reportedly considered a £3 billion bid for T-Mobile UK in June 2009, as did O2. However, T-Mobile and Orange finally confirmed they intended to merge in November last year.

The merger got the green light from the European Commission back in February, after the parent companies (France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom) offered to sell off part of their combined radio spectrum in exchange for EC approval of the deal. This was despite the consumer group, the Communications Consumer Panel, expressing its unease over the EC’s approval of the merger without a detailed investigation.

In May it was revealed that the combined entity of Orange and T-Mobile would be named ‘Everything Everywhere’, but that the two brands would remain autonomous.

Everything Everywhere looks set to dominate the mobile sector, as it still has the bulk of the 1800 MHz spectrum in the UK, and should have a significant advantage over other mobile networks.

Other advantages include its colossal size compared to other mobile players. Even Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile operator (in terms of sales), will be dwarfed in its home market, with Everything Everywhere controlling an estimated 37 percent slice of the UK mobile space.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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