At least, that's the fear of Ofcom chief executive Sharon White.
Writing in the Financial Times, White is urging the European Commission to block a proposed merger of telecoms groups Three (one of the smallest) and O2 (one of the largest).
Back in March 2015, Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison group - owner of Three - proposed to buy O2 from Telefónica to the tune of £10.5 billion, merging them into one company. Were that to happen, says White, it could seriously harm the competitive nature of the UK's telecoms market, likely resulting in higher prices for consumers and businesses.
If the merger were to go ahead, the newly merged Three/O2 operator would be responsible for four in 10 mobile connections in the UK - a margin that would shift the balance of power in mobile operators in a manner that could be felt in high street offers and bills.
"We are concerned that the smallest mobile network, Three, proposes to become the biggest by acquiring its rival O2," said White. "Many of our concerns relate to competition between operators who own the networks on which mobile phones rely. Only these four companies can make your mobile signal faster, more reliable and widely available. Establishing a new mobile network might be one answer, but this would take time, and considerable investment."
The decision as to whether the merger will go ahead lies with Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager - and the good news for us is that she's already stated a concern over the reduction of mobile phone operators via mergers in other European nations.
With the European Commission set to give their first formal statement on the proposed merger in the coming weeks, it might be worth practising the lost art of letter writing, just in case.
[Via: Financial Times]