UPC in talks with 3 Ireland to launch mobile phone service
UPC has confirmed that it is in discussions with Irish mobile operators to launch a mobile phone service in Ireland. The company is believed to be close to a deal with 3 Ireland, owned by Hutchison Whampoa, to launch a service here.
"We are in discussions with various possible mobile network providers on the matter and we will provide more information if a deal is reached," a spokesman told the Irish Independent.
The company's plans for a new mobile service, which was first revealed in this newspaper in 2013, would see the company using the network infrastructure of an existing mobile operator here to resell its own service.
"We remain committed to a full mobile virtual network operator solution where we provide every network element ourselves, except the radio access," said the spokesman. "We aim to provide a pan-European service competing with Europe's fragmented telecoms companies."
3 Ireland is understood to be keen to complete the deal, as a new UPC mobile service is seen as crucial to 3 Ireland's chances of persuading the European Commission that it should be allowed to purchase O2 Ireland for up to €850m. The European Commission has expressed fears that the proposed takeover would reduce competition in the Irish market.
The Commission is believed to favour a 'full' mobile network operator – such as Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 – over a mobile virtual network operator, such as Tesco Mobile and the new service being proposed by UPC. 'Full' mobile network operators own their network infrastructure and are adjudged to be more committed to providing services in the long term.
The Commission is set to make a decision on the takeover deal by June 20.
The news comes as UPC revealed a slight rise in its Irish customer base. It gained 0.2pc more television customers (to 339,000) compared to a year ago, while its broadband subscription rose by 10pc to 348,300 in the same period.
In the Irish television market, the company still trails Sky. While the satellite provider does not disclose its Irish customer figures, company sources say that it is in excess of 550,000.