The bosses of BT and EE have accused their rivals of trying to derail their agreed £12.5bn takeover deal for their own ends.
Gavin Patterson, the chief executive of BT, which made its bid for mobile giant EE in February, said: "The likes of Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone are obviously doing things to push their own causes but they are doing it through innuendo and suggestion. There is no evidence that a combined BT and EE will lessen competition."
Mr Patterson’s opposite number at EE, Olaf Swantee, said: "These competitors only want to put up roadblocks, while we want to build motorways for the UK."
The Competition and Markets Authority last week fast-tracked the £12.5bn takeover to a full merger investigation and is now taking submissions from BT, EE and their rivals. It could take until early next year to make a final decision.
In the meantime rivals have been calling for a break-up of BT with a spin-off of Openreach, the wholesale business which almost all of them are compelled to use to supply broadband to their customers.
Mr Patterson said: “If the CMA sticks to the facts and examines what this really does in terms of competition and choice, it will come to the obvious conclusion that the deal makes sense. Our rivals are making self-serving submissions, but the fact is that there will still be four mobile operators in the UK as now and no one will have concentration with more than 40 per cent of any part of the telecoms market.”
BT and EE also published research commissioned from Rob Kenny of Communications Chambers which argues that a merger of the two companies is needed if the UK wants a “true digital champion”.
Mr Swantee said the UK was the “most digitally hungry country in Europe” and that if it was to maintain its place with the fastest broadband and the earliest mass switch to 5G mobile technology, the deal must be cleared.
Combined, BT and EE have invested £35bn in the UK over the past decade. Mr Patterson said it was impossible to say how much would be needed over the coming years but said it was “billions of pounds”.
“We have another wave of investment coming up with ultrafast broadband and 5G,” he said. “We know where the next technology is coming from. Other companies who are not investing in technology at the moment may be using the CMA investigation to try to divert interest.
“The fact is that customers want access to the internet on their terms. They are spending more time online than ever before. You have combined fixed and mobile companies across Europe, in the US and in Japan. They are popular with customers and generally lead to better value for them.”Reuse content