UK greenlights $7.3B merger between satellite rivals Viasat and Inmarsat

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has officially greenlighted the proposed $7.3 billion merger between Viasat and Inmarsat.

London-based Inmarsat and its U.S. rival Viasat offer various satellite services including in-flight Wi-Fi to commercial airlines.

Today's news comes some two months after the CMA revealed that it was likely to give the merger the go-ahead, around 16 months after the deal was first announced. The CMA had initially said that the merger could lead to less competition and thus pricier in-flight Wi-Fi for consumers, but it has now concluded that there is sufficient competition from newcomers in the low-Earth orbit (LEO) realm, as well as other established players, including Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, which operates Starlink. Indeed, Starlink has already launched thousands of satellites inked to commercial deals with airlines and network operators such as T-Mobile.

"The satellite communications sector is evolving at rapid pace -- new companies are entering the market, more satellites are being launched into space, and firms are exploring and entering into new commercial deals," said the CMA inquiry group chair Richard Feasey, in a press release. "All the evidence has shown that the sector will continue to grow as the demand for satellite connectivity increases. After carefully scrutinising the deal, we are now satisfied that, following the merger, these developments will ensure that both airlines and their U.K. customers will continue to benefit from strong competition."

It's worth noting that the U.K. government had already rubberstamped the deal on national security grounds, concluding that the merger would pose "no risk."

However, the European Commission (EC) revealed back in February that it was launching an in-depth investigation into the merger, saying at the time that the deal could allow Viasat " reduce competition in the market for the supply of broadband in-flight connectivity."

So while today is certainly good news for Viasat and Inmarsat, it's not a done deal quite yet.