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Belgium: Watchdog puts the brakes on Orange and Proximus JV

 |  January 13, 2020

The Belgian Competition Authority (BMA) has suspended the planned network sharing venture between Proximux and Orange Belgium until March 16, while it collects more information on the plans, reported Telecom Paper. This follows a complaint from the third mobile operator in Belgium, Telenet. 

The operator announced the plans in July, and Telenet filed a complaint in November. Telenet claimed the two companies together have a 75% market share and a “quasi monopoly” in the business segment, and their joint venture could discourage infrastructure competition in the market.

The BMA stated it will await further information from the investigation underway by the telecom authority BIPT into the joint venture, and to hear more from the BIPT’s discussions with Orange and Proximus. Orange and Proximus stated the operators made a series of commitments to the BIPT to help clarify their intentions and resolve the regulator’s concerns. The delay given by the BMA will give the authorities more time to study these responses, the operators said. 

Telenet stated it was satisfied with the preliminary order, but called for a thorough investigation by the BMA and BIPT. The authorities need to take into account earlier decisions by the European Commission on such ventures, such as its ongoing investigation into O2 and T-Mobile’s network sharing in Czechia, Telenet stated . This is a similar, but less extensive network venture, over which the Commission has competition concerns. 

The BMA stated the suspension blocks the transfer of personnel at Orange and Proximus and signing of any binding documents. However, they may proceed with requests for proposals for network equipment and selecting staff for the venture. Given the potential positive effects of the cooperation and the time needed to investigate Telenet’s complaint, the regulator stated it decided to not suspend the deal until the complaint case is fully resolved. 

Full Content: Telecom Paper

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