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Consumer organisation concerned over Mobile Vikings takeover by Proximus
Test Achats/Test Aankoop, the Belgian non-profit consumer protection organisation, is concerned about the proposed acquisition of mobile virtual network operator Mobile Vikings by Belgium’s largest mobile telecommunications company Proximus. The consumer organisation "sees once again the consolidation of the Belgian telecoms landscape" and calls it a bad deal "given the high prices".
"Mobile Vikings and JIM Mobile are the latest operators to fight over prices in the mobile market and now that they are going to disappear and merge into the Proximus group, we fear that this will once again stifle the already limited competition in the Belgian market," a spokesperson for Test Achats/Test Aankoop said in a statement. "No one can ignore the fact that the position of a dominant player will become even more dominant."
The Mobile Vikings and JIM Mobile brands together have approximately 335,000 customers. Based in Hasselt and with 80 employees, Mobile Vikings will continue to operate as a separate entity within the Proximus group, in the same way as Scarlet and Tango already do, so the impact could therefore remain limited, the consumer organisation observes.
Orange, which had also expressed interest in the takeover, is likely to be the biggest loser in the deal. DPG Media, the Belgian publishing company which owns several media assets, including Mobile Vikings and JIM Mobile, leased network capacity from Orange for its 335,000 customers. These customers will now move to the Proximus network once the sale is completed.
The potential acquisition, which will cost Proximus €130 million, could be the final nail in the coffin of DPG Media's telecom ambitions. DPG justified this sale by saying it was too expensive to offer convergent packs including mobile networks and fixed internet services. "Wholesale cable access rates are not attractive enough for a media company like ours," said chief executive Kris Vervaet.
Test Achats/Test Aankoop took the opportunity to warn of the potential consequences of the acquisition to once again underline the importance it attaches to the arrival of a fourth operator when auctioning 5G frequencies in Belgium.
"Only the entry of a fourth network operator offering a full range of services can revitalise the mobile telecommunications market in Belgium," the organisation said. There are three licensed mobile network operators (MNO) in Belgium, Proximus (Belgacom), Orange Belgium and Telenet/Base.