EU weighs investigation of collusion among mobile operators

Telcos were concerned with competition from Google and Apple

Europe's top antitrust regulator is considering an investigation against the European Union's five biggest telecommunication companies for possible anticompetitive collusion against potential competitors including Apple and Google.

The European Commission has sent out questionnaires aimed at finding out whether a series of meetings between Vodafone, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica could have amounted to collusion.

The GSMA, a trade body that represents telecommunications operators, has also been questioned. This fact finding procedure is the first step on the path to a formal investigation, although an investigation is not a foregone conclusion.

The first meeting between the five companies took place in October 2010, where they discussed strategy and standardization issues. The group, nicknamed the E5, was concerned about growing competition from new messaging technologies by Apple and Google. The group says that lawyers were present at all meetings and that minutes were sent to the Commission. Such caution suggests that the E5 knew the antitrust regulators would be scrutinizing the meetings.

"The requests for information relate to the manner in which standardization for future services in the mobile communications area is taking place," confirmed the Commission's trade spokesman Antoine Colombani.

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