But how many operators will disappear (be acquired, merge, or go out of business) in, say, the next 10 years? Would the European Union's Competition and Information Society authorities, and national regulators, allow individual markets to shrink to just a few players, limiting consumer choice?
If it did come to that, it's not hard to guess which companies would likely survive such a process: Orange (NYSE: FTE)/Salt SA , Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)/T-Mobile International AG , Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF)/O2 stand out as Europe's Alpha Carriers.
Telekom Austria AG (NYSE: TKA; Vienna: TKA) (with its East European empire), Telecom Italia (TIM) , and possibly Telia Company might also make the cut, although Telecom Italia could conceivably get swallowed by the Telefónica empire, and TeliaSonera was, at one time, a France Telecom takeover target. (See Is Italian on Telefónica's Menu? , Telekom Austria Eyes Mobile Capex Cuts, and FT Drops $42B Bid .)
There are already signs that some of the biggest names are looking to solidify their positions: Look no further than the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile (UK) to create the bizarrely named joint venture, Everything Everywhere (I haven't yet heard anyone use that name in regular conversation), to create the UK's largest operator by subscriber numbers. (See Orange, T-Mobile Do Everything Everywhere .)
But how far can this process go? I'd be interested to hear some views on the message boards below on whether the "Old Continent" will ultimately become a near single market with just five or six mega-carriers, or whether the dis-united states of Europe will retain its current service provider and cultural diversity.
And in case you're wondering about Benoit Scheen and Mobistar, which is Belgium's No. 2 mobile operator with around 4 million customers -– it's already part of the France Telecom empire… — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading