BT has confirmed that its £12.5bn deal to buy EE has been finalised. The agreement will make BT the largest fixed and mobile provider in the UK. The deal is not expected to close until some point in 2016.
BT and EE agreed provisionally to such a deal last year when the two companies entered into exclusive discussions.
BT said that the move will provide several benefits, including the ability to sell fixed broadband and telephone services to EE’s customer base, which currently numbers 24.5 million.
The deal was announced on the same day that EE revealed its 2014 financial report. This showed that it now has 7.7 million 4G customers, two million of whom were added in Q4 alone.
EE also said that its 4G coverage now extends to 84 percent of the population and the firm is on track to cover 98 percent by the end of 2015.
BT chief executive Gavin Patterson described the deal as a major step forward for BT and the wider UK telecoms market.
“This is a major milestone for BT as it will allow us to accelerate our mobility plans and increase our investment in them," he said.
"The UK’s leading 4G network will now dovetail with the UK’s biggest fibre network, helping to create the leading converged communications provider in the UK."
EE chief executive Olaf Swantee said that the deal will be an ideal fit for both companies by combining the biggest fixed and mobile networks under one umbrella.
“In the last few years alone, we have built the UK’s biggest, fastest and best 4G network, significantly advancing the digital communications infrastructure for people and businesses across Britain,” he said.
Despite both companies touting the benefits of the deal, there is likely to be significant scrutiny to see that it does not unbalance the UK mobile market. This is especially pertinent in light of Three's move to buy O2 for £10bn.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said that the competition authorities must ensure that UK mobile phone users are not left short-changed by these mergers.
"The competition authorities must now look at both the proposed mergers and the market in the round to make sure that consumers are protected from unfair price increases or poorer service as a result of less competition," he said.
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