Mobile operator Hutchison 3G Ireland, which trades as 3 Ireland, has unveiled a scheme to hive off spectrum and subscribers to a new market entrant in order to gain regulatory approval for its proposed buyout of larger rival Telefonica O2 Ireland. The European Commission (EC) has concerns that the EUR850 million (USD1.1 billion) deal will hamper competition by reducing the market from four to three players. 3 Ireland is now saying it will initially assist with the setting up of a new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the country, with suggestions that it has already forged an agreement with Ireland’s largest cable TV provider, UPC. Such a deal would enable UPC to provide a quad-play package of fixed line, mobile, broadband and TV services. According to a report from The Irish Times, the new reseller will be offered the opportunity to acquire a ready-made subscriber base of between 50,000 and 75,000 users, which could come from O2’s own youth-oriented MVNO operation ‘48’.
Building on the MVNO relationship, 3 Ireland says it will then offer the reseller part of the spectrum of the combined O2/3 Ireland which will allow the MVNO to convert into the country’s fourth fully fledged network operator. In addition, 3 Ireland will sign a network sharing agreement and a national roaming deal with the new provider, while it will also honour the terms of an existing network sharing arrangement with the third-placed operator, Eircom subsidiary Meteor Mobile. The EC is expected to issue a ruling on the proposed takeover by 20 May.