But what does this prevented merger really mean for the UK telco market? What does it mean for business customers? And what does it mean for the telcos concerned? In my opinion:
UK consumers should expect the same dull mobile offers that they have been receiving for years. There are no signs that any telco in the UK market is about to radically rethink its offering along the lines of the T-Mobile US reset that John Legere kicked off several years ago after the T-Mobile/AT&T merger fell through. Rather, I expect more business-as-usual in the UK and no step-change in mobile broadband investments, and as a result, no great benefits for consumers to arise as a result of the merger blockage.
Telefónica entered into an exclusivity agreement with Hutchison Whampoa regarding Hutchison's potential acquisition of the Telefónica subsidiary O2 UK for £10.25 billion in cash, valuing the deal at an estimated 7.5 times 2014 EV/EBITDA. The Hutchison-O2 UK deal — should it complete — will entirely redraw the telco landscape in the UK in terms of market shares. The acquisition of O2 UK will transform Hutchison from the smallest mobile operator with 7.5 million customers to the largest with 31.5 million customers and reduce the number of mobile operators in the UK from four to three.
This development follows on the heels of the announcement by Orange and Deutsche Telekom that they have entered into exclusive negotiations with BT Group regarding a potential divestment of 100% of their shares in EE, their joint venture in the UK. The increased merger activity is not surprising, and we predicted as much in our report Predictions 2015: Telecoms Will Struggle To Align To The CIO's BT Agenda. Still, these deals raise important questions for the European telecoms markets:
I recently attended an event in London where Telefonica shed more light on its Digital division. Digital is the central division driving innovation at Telefonica group and was formed in September 2011. However, Telefonica, despite the creation of Digital, still is somewhat in the old telco mold of inside-out innovation.
Digitization is undoubtedly a major theme affecting both society and the economy, bringing huge implications for communication, collaboration, consumption, and production. The big focus areas for Digital are e-health, digital content distribution, security, cloud, M2M, OTT comms, financial services, and advertising. In this respect, Digital is the right answer. My main observations from the event are:
Digital’s product development process is not end-user-focused enough. Digital does not seem to involve the actual end users as much as other solution providers, like for instance Colt (http://goo.gl/oBCO0). What was missing during most presentations was a better demand-analysis of its customer base. Digitization has big implications for company cultures, modes of operation, and ways of life. Businesses require significant assistance in preparing for these challenges such as change management. Digital did not explain how it plans to address these either through internal capabilities or through partnerships with business consulting firms like Deloitte. This means that Telefonica risks developing solutions that do not meet demand. Moreover, detailed customer case studies were not discussed, although Digital did present its portfolio development approach.
Mobile digital wallets are emerging and going beyond payment. New technologies, mixing QR codes, apps, personal financial management software, NFC, and many more, are combining to convert mobile handsets into digital wallets that combine not just payments but also receipts, vouchers, and loyalty. Beyond the convenience of using the phone for payment, consumers will benefit from post-transaction elements such as location-based coupons or enhanced product information at the point of sale (POS).
We’ve not seen a single day without a new product launch, start-up creation, or acquisition — or a new strategic alliance between banks, payment networks, Internet firms, or mobile operators.
So what’s new today? Telefonica 02 just announced the launch of O2 Wallet in the UK.
We believe that the O2 Wallet is, for now, the most comprehensive mobile payment solution in the UK – available to a majority of smartphone owners, whether they are O2 customers or not. The new product combines the following functions:
Money Message — This gives customers the ability to easily transfer money to any UK mobile phone number.