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November 11, 2015

BT hits back at Vodafone monopoly claims, Sky re-enters fray

News: Use of the m-word is "misleading", telco says.

By Alexander Sword

BT has hit back at claims by Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao that it is trying to "remonopolise" the telecoms sector.

"The UK is one of the most competitive telecoms markets in the world and it is highly misleading to suggest otherwise. Independent [European Commission] data shows that BT has a 33 per cent market share, one of the lowest in Europe.

"That data also shows the UK to be streets ahead of other major European nations when it comes to superfast broadband coverage and take up."

Referring to comments Colao made unfavourably comparing the UK broadband to nations in Southern Europe, BT added:

"Fibre coverage stands at 90% in the UK compared with just 25% in Italy so we are amazed that Vodafone are suggesting the UK can learn from southern Europe.

"The UK is a broadband leader and much of that is down to the three billion pounds that BT has invested in its open access fibre network. BT has invested heavily whilst other companies have sat on the sidelines with their hands in their very deep pockets."

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Speaking to City A.M., BT also called the claims "misleading and downright inaccurate."

"The ‘m word’ – monopoly – is being used to set false hares running.

"Nobody minds robust debate, but it helps when those making allegations first check their data and get the basic facts right."

The statements came in response to claims made by Colao on BBC’s Today programme that both BT and German counterpart Deutsche Telekom are trying to return to dominating European telecoms markets as they did in the days when both were state-owned monopolies.

Vodafone’s horse in the race is clear; recently the telco launched its own broadband services in the UK and with BT’s acquisition of mobile operator EE likely to go ahead after being provisionally approved by the Competitions and Markets Authority, it will have to battle BT in that market as well.

Weighing into the fray was BT’s primary broadband rival, Sky. Writing in a City A.M. op-ed, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Griffith, wrote:

"The frustrations with Openreach expressed by Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao yesterday are shared by millions of customers and business as well as Sky.

"The current structure where one provider, BT, has complete ownership of the national broadband network has led to unacceptable levels of service, reduced competition, and a poverty of ambition in terms of building the network the UK will need in the future."

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