Three chief exec David Dyson has hinted that the network is open to the possibility of combining with another carrier to strengthen its position in the UK and take on larger operators such as EE.
Dyson told The Guardian that the country could easily survive with a reduced number of service providers “under the right circumstances”.
The number of UK operators decreased from five to four a couple of years ago with the merger of Orange and T-Mobile to form EE, which unsurprisingly is now the largest player on the UK mobile scene.
But with speculation that Three's parent company, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, could be looking to swallow up O2 in Ireland, Dyson has suggested that a similar move was possible here in the UK too.
“Under the right circumstances the UK could operate competitively with three or with five,” Dyson said this week, arguing that high-profile mergers could be the only way smaller networks could compete with the likes of EE going forward.
All eyes are currently on Germany, where O2 is looking to join forces with E-Plus, a move that would reduce the number of core networks in the country from four to three. Dyson says that the response of German regulators to the proposed merger could set the tone for similar deals to be struck elsewhere, including the UK.
“Let's see what happens in Germany first,” Dyson said. “We are three years into a five-year plan to double our customer base from five million to 10 million.
“If we can deliver on that plan maybe that makes us more interesting as a target or puts us in a position where we can do something as an acquirer.”