United Internet seeks cheap access to Telefonica-E-Plus network
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Rival mobile companies should be given cost price access to the German network of Telefonica as a condition of its takeover of KPN's local business being approved, German internet service provider United Internet said on Thursday.
United Internet Chief Executive Ralph Dommermuth told Reuters he took a critical view of the 8.6 billion euro ($11.9 billion) deal between Telefonica Deutschland and KPN's E-Plus - Germany's No.3 and No.4 mobile operators.
He has asked the European Commission, which is examining whether to approve the deal, to force Spain's Telefonica to give so-called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) access to its network at cost price if the takeover goes ahead, he said.
United Internet offers mobile plans in Germany as an MVNO - an operator which rents access to rivals' networks and tends to sell cheaper mobile plans, often without a long-term contract.
Only when MVNOs have access to mobile networks will fair competition be guaranteed, Dommermuth said in an interview.
Telefonica's takeover of E-Plus will put it on par with German market leaders Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, but it will also reduce the number of major players to three, similar to what has happened in Austria.
EU antitrust regulators are carrying out an in-depth probe of the deal with a deadline set for May 14, as they fear it may reduce competition in the German mobile market, the largest in the European Union.
In 2012, the European Commission allowed Hutchison to buy Orange's Austrian unit on the condition that they would help new operators enter the market.
Dommermuth said mobile services in Austria had become more expensive since that merger.
"We don't want Austrian circumstances here," he said.
($1 = 0.7254 Euros)
(Reporting by Alexander Huebner; Writing by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Mark Potter)