The European Commission has approved Telefonica’s sale of O2 in Ireland to mobile network operator Three, in a deal originally proposed in June.
This makes the network the second largest in the country behind Vodafone, but, as ever in these deals, the Hutchison Whampoa-owned Three - which paid €850m for the network - claims ambitious plans to overtake its rival and will invest €300m to build a 4G network.
The EU had initially opposed the deal but ceded based on a couple of provisos: Three has commit to provide network capacity and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services to two companies, and give them the option to buy spectrum.
The first of these deals, with UPC, which is owned by Liberty Global, has already been struck. The cable TV and broadband operator will use the newly enhanced Irish Three to offer mobile services to its customers in 2015.
Vodafone has hit back at the EU approval, saying:
“Vodafone also has significant concerns that the proposed remedies will distort healthy competition rather than preserve it, and will act as a barrier to future investment in next generation communications in Ireland.”
Voda is investigating the possibilities of taking legal action under both EU and Irish law. ®