Thursday, October 11, 2007

Whither Orange NL's broadband unit?

When France Telecom finally sold its Orange NL unit to T-Mobile NL, the focus was on the mobile unit. Deutsche Telekom will, over the next few months, decide what to do with the broadband unit (the former Wanadoo NL, an unbundler).

Here are the possible outcomes I envision:
  • Hang on to it. T-Mobile could kick-off a major strategy shift, away from being a mobile pure-play and go the way of Orange and Vodafone. Not impossible, but highly unlikely, I believe.
  • Sell it to KPN or Vodafone. That's a double no. KPN has reached the limits of its market share, and Vodafone has just launched a complicated resale arrangement with the former Tiscali NL (now part of KPN). Also, T-Mobile wouldn't want to strengthen a competitor!
  • Sell it to another unbundler, i.e. Tele2 or Telecom Italia's bbned. Why not. In time, it could be a way for cooperation between T-Mobile and the buyer of the Orange BB unit. Also, Tele2 is selling lots of assets (Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Austria), and in the meantime focuses on other regions (Scandinavia, Baltics, Russia). It will be interesting to see if Tele2 is really committed to the Netherlands, where consolidation is making the market a lot more attractive. Sort of the same goes for bbned. Or is Telecom Italia only readying the unit for a sale, by beefing it up first?
  • Sell it to Reggefiber. Unlikely, since Reggefiber focuses on building infrastructure (FTTH), and it doesn't seem to have access to unlimited cash. However, the argument could be: add a service provider business and in due course migrate the customers to the Reggefiber network (where possible).
  • Sell to a new entrant. A wild card. Maybe Telefonica is willing to do a relatively small deal, since it turned away from larger ones. Also, Belgacom could be a candidate (as I have hinted at before).

So, my order of likelihood would be:

  1. Sell to Tele2 or bbned (TI).
  2. Hang on to it.
  3. Sell to a new entrant like Telefonica or Belgacom.
  4. Sell to Vodafone, Reggefiber or KPN.

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