While Android Headlines is of course a site dedicated to US news, we like to cater to our worldwide audience and considering I, myself, am British it’s no surprise that this week’s news concerning the possible sale of O2 or EE to BT hasn’t piqued our interest. I’m not all that old, I’ll be 24 next year, and yet I still remember a time when BT owned and ran their own wireless network, BT Cellnet and at the time I imagine that stood for something. Here was British Telecom with growing internet service, for a lot of people they were the de factor landline provider and they were ready to meet the future with BT Cellnet. Since the sale of O2 to Telefonica back in 2005, a lot has changed, and if everyone were to purchase O2 I’d rather it be Hutchison Whampoa, the owner of Three UK. A lot of the reasons why I feel this would be a better solution are pretty selfish and from personal experience, but hear me out.
This week, Reuters ran a story saying that Hutchison Whampoa were looking to put in a bid for either O2 or EE in order to enter some sort of bidding war with BT, but I think it’s more about trying to keep an industry giant like BT out. Last year, Hutchison Whampoa bought O2’s Irish arm from Telefonica for a cool â‚¬780 Million and I’m fairly certain that if Hutchison Whampoa believe the rest of Telefonica’s UK network up for sale, then they want to get their hands on it. To the consumer, not much would change on a day-to-day basis, but having BT get in the game would be a big deal, after all they’re one of the largest telecommunications firm in the country and once they owned their own pet wireless network they’d be a serious force to be reckoned with. That raises questions surrounding competition and subsequently pricing, and I’d rather Three UK grew from an O2 purchase, than a massive giant get even more powerful.
I recently swapped from O2 to Three and it’s genuinely made a difference to how I use my phone. You might thing I’d be tricked out with 4G and an expensive monthly tariff, yet I pay just £23 a month for 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts and unlimited data and unlimited tethering to boot. Of course, I bought my Xperia Z2 outright, but even if I took a similar SIM-only contract from O2 they couldn’t match Three’s price. Nor could EE or Vodafone for that matter and I think the reason why Three can offer such great deals on SIM-only contracts is because they focus on being simple and transparent. Meanwhile, folks like O2, Vodafone and EE are all offering other products and deals to entice customers. Many of which are quite appealing, but at the end of the day many of us just want a reliable service and one that’s affordable and good value. I know that Three’s network is hardly sparkling for a lot of UK users, but swapping to Three here in Derbyshire gave me 4G where I didn’t even get 3G from O2 and I’ve gone from paying £40 a month for 2GB of data, to all of the above for almost half that.
Instead of giving BT more power to lock customers into contracts that aren’t really delivering on what they promise, I feel that if Three and O2 were to come together, and still offer the same excellent pricing that Three does currently, then they’d be a little more competition, rather than less. Quad-play deals offering landline services, broadband, TV and mobile phone plans seem to be all the rage these days, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I don’t want to get all my services from under one roof. Especially not if that means I’m locked into an agreement that isn’t flexible and hardly affordable. I have Virgin Media broadband at home and pull down 159Mbps regularly, and I realize I’m lucky in that regard, but their quality Internet service doesn’t want me to sign up for a mobile phone contract from them as well.
The point I’m trying to make is that everyone has something of value to offer, and it differs up and down the UK, but bundling everything together isn’t the best way forward, in my opinion. While not easy comparisons to make, Tesco tries to offer pretty much everything under one brand and that’s clearly doing them no favors at the moment. People are more than happy to bounce from one supermarket to another in order to get the best price, and I feel that sort of attitude could do wonders for the wireless industry in the UK.