Two UK networks are merging to create one 5G monster

Vodafone and Three logos
(Image credit: Vodafone & Three / iMore)

Two U.K phone networks are on the verge of merging to become one new super-carrier, assuming they're allowed to.

Following months of rumors Vodafone and Three have both announced their intention to merge, creating what would become the U.K.'s largest network as a result.

However, the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will no doubt take a long hard look at what such a merger would mean for customers — and it has the power to block the deal if it believes that competition will suffer as a result.

"Building the UK’s Digital Future"

As part of the merger, and possibly as a way to try and grease the wheels of the likely CMA investigation, the two companies confirmed that they intend to pump £11 billion into upgrading the U.K.'s 5G infrastructure.

"The combined business will invest £11 billion in the UK over ten years to create one of Europe's most advanced standalone 5G networks, in full support of UK Government targets," a joint press release says.

However, Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie notes that the deal might never get off the ground. “There is still a way to go on getting this merger over the line, and as Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority tend to be wary of mobile-only mergers, we may still see these efforts come to nothing," Tofts told iMore via email.

Despite this, Vodafone and Three claim that their merger would actually increase competition — in the world of MVNOs. An MVNO is a company that piggybacks off another provider's network, with many using BT EE or Virgin Media - O2. If the merger goes through, Vodafone and Three say, MVNOs will have a new alternative that also happens to have the largest network in town.

Whether that's enough to appease any CMA concerns remains to be seen.

All of this is unlikely to happen in time for anyone to choose the new company as their iPhone 15 service provider, but the U.K. still has plenty of options regardless — something those in other countries can't boast of.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.