Guernsey Press

Sure hopes Coop deal is game-changer for takeover

Sure is hoping that Economic Development will once again back its plans to acquire Airtel-Vodafone if the Jersey competition regulator approves.

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Sure CEO Alistair Beak was optimistic that the Coop announcement would help persuade the JCRA to approve its plans. (Picture by Tim Langlois)

The committee was last summer poised to ask the States for an exemption to the Competition Law that would allow Sure’s takeover of the third player in the local telecoms market to happen, bypassing the need for approval from the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority.

But the report was withdrawn after it emerged that the Jersey regulator was minded to reject Sure’s bid.

News that the Channel Islands Coop is due to enter the market as a virtual mobile phone operator triggered the Jersey competition regulator to start another four-week consultation, which concludes this week.

The Coop will, in effect, replace Airtel-Vodafone in the local market, even though the retailer will be running its services over Sure’s mobile network.

Sure CEO Alistair Beak was optimistic that the Coop announcement would help persuade the JCRA to approve its plans, but he accepted that there was still some way to go.

‘We absolutely don’t consider it a done deal when it’s subject to a four-week public consultation,’ he said.

‘Then there’ll be a period of assessment by the Jersey regulator, followed by a final decision, and we hope that will be a positive one.’

He hoped that Economic Development in Guernsey would then look to take its exemption report back to the States.

‘We are hoping that the reasons for the exemption that the committee were looking at remain very much intact, and if anything are strengthened now that that we’ve agreed to launch a virtual operator within 12 months of receiving approval.’

Economic Development said that it was ‘monitoring developments’.

If approval is forthcoming Sure is promising to spend £48m. on developing the islands’ mobile networks which will include 5G.

‘Think of the Airtel network and the Sure networks today being combined and that network will have the very latest 5G technology,’ said Mr Beak.

‘It will also improve coverage and quality and hugely increase the speeds of data and it will do so in a way which reduces the number of masts across Guernsey and Jersey.

‘That has to be better for innovation, for investment, for services, and it’s more efficient, so ultimately prices will be lower than they otherwise would have been, because instead of customers having to pay for two separate networks and all the infrastructure that goes with that, they will only have to pay for one.’

So far no Guernsey telco has been allocated the necessary frequencies for 5G.

Final approval for a 5G licence has to come from UK regulator Ofcom, which has already been asked by the Jersey regulator to grant licences to Sure and JT in Jersey. A JCRA spokesman anticipated roll-out some time next year.

Guernsey Airtel CEO Sid Ahlawat said Sure’s acquisition, if approved, would help ensure the long-term sustainability of the telecoms sector in Guernsey.

‘This will enable enhanced and viable investments in mobile network infrastructure, benefitting our customers, employees, environment, and the telecoms infrastructure as a whole,’ he said.