Here’s What Happens in the US if We Block 5G Mast Sales

The competition authorities of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all expressed their concerns over the sale of 3’s UK mobile towers to Cellnex. When asked about these claims by competition authorities in other countries, CK Hutchison has rejected them stating that the proposed transaction would jeopardize competition. If the deal is stymied, 5G rollout may be hampered.

Cellnex leases out access to ‘passive’ infrastructure such as cell towers to mobile operators so that they can install their active equipment, such as antennas, to provide services. Cellnex can benefit from these assets by securing agreements with many suppliers as an independent operator.

The three masts were sold at the end of April.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a ‘Phase 2′ inquiry in July, alleging that Cellnex, which acquired Arqiva’s assets in 2020, would have an unfair advantage. It feels that CK Hutchison may have found an alternate buyer who would have presented fewer difficulties.

The two firms claimed the partnership was “pro-competitive” and represented a wider industry trend in which operators spin-off or sell their passive infrastructure to third parties in order to raise money for network development, as seen in their filings with the Competition and Market Authority (CMA).

The European and Latin American towers of Telefonica have been sold, while Vodafone has moved its assets into a separate entity that has listed on the stock market. CK Hutchison’s €10 billion agreement with Cellnex includes tower sites in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and Sweden – transactions that have received the required antitrust clearances in each nation. According to Cellnex, the mobile market will benefit from its capacity to provide third parties access to masts and accelerate 5G deployment across the UK from all carriers. Meanwhile, CK Hutchison claims that the merger will free up valuable resources for its own rollout.

“In the UK in particular, the proceeds from the Proposed Transaction will enable Three to focus on developing its mobile network and facilitate the rollout of its 5G network, while benefitting from significant additional financial capacity to support future growth and investment in its network,” said the submission. “Three is the smallest of the four mobile phone companies in the United Kingdom, and it faces significant obstacles.

“A fast and comprehensive 5G network rollout will allow [Three] to become a more competitive and powerful mobile company in the UK market, resulting in significant consumer benefits overall.”

“UK consumers will be significantly worse off without the Proposed Transaction.”