Orange and One 2 One don?t have to provide airtime to mobile service providers, a court ruled this week.
The decision will enable the operators to compete more effectively against their more dominant competitors Vodafone and Cellnet, and as a result will benefit consumers, according to the UK's telecomm watchdog Oftel.
A group of mobile service providers, lead by London-based Cellcom, contested changes made in April by Oftel to Orange and One 2 One's licenses to remove the operators' obligation to sell service providers with airtime.
Mobile service providers buy airtime from operators in bulk and resell it in discounted packages to consumers and businesses.
But the judge decided that Oftel had acted within its powers, and that the previous regulations were affecting the competitiveness of Orange and One 2 One.
Oftel's director general David Edmonds said he was "delighted" at the ruling, and that it vindicated Oftel's decision to modify the operators' licenses.
"I am committed to promoting competition in the mobile sector and safeguarding the interests of consumers," Edmonds said in a statement. "We believe that our licence amendments furthered this aim and were a step towards removing unnecessary regulation."
Orange said it was pleased by the ruling. "This ruling leaves us free to choose how we distribute the Orange service to customers. Orange has consistently strived to maintain a clear direct relationship with customers, a position which is supported by this decision," the operator said in a statement.
One 2 One said the decision is acknowledgement that Oftel is justified in putting different regulatory requirements on it and Orange to those imposed on the dominant players Vodafone and Cellnet.
In light of the decision, One 2 One will continue to sell airtime to service providers, but will have better choice over who it sells to and how, according to a spokesman. The wholesale market represents a very small part of One 2 One's business.
CellCom was unable to provide a spokesperson for comment.
Cellnet and Vodafone, are not affected by the decision and will remain obliged to provide airtime to service providers. However both are coming under increasing scrutiny by Oftel because of their significant market power.
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