Ofcom will consider adapting its regulatory approach if changes are made to the market and will clearly set out how it has considered investment when making future policy decisions.
Ofcom has released its views on how mobile markets could develop and the possible need for networks to evolve.
The regulator says demand for mobile services has grown over the past 10 years, and it expects growth to continue through data-hungry services.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) will continue to serve the market, but Ofcom believes other companies could start to provide mobile networks and services.
Ofcom says mobile networks will have to evolve to meet future demand and provide quality experience for consumers and businesses.
Wider and fuller use of current spectrum holdings, making use of planned spectrum releases, technology upgrades and deploying more sites including small cells are all ways that could help.
The regulator has also said that its stance on consolidation would be informed by “the specific circumstances of that particular merger, rather than just the number of competitors.”
Benefit of consolidation
Three UK CEO Robert Finnegan commented on the report: “As things stand, the UK does not have the quality of mobile infrastructure it deserves.
“Investment is spread too thinly across too many players, meaning our networks are sub-par by international standards.
“Consolidation in the industry could change that. Moving from four to three mobile players in the UK would mean better, smarter investment in the networks which would, in turn, improve the quality and scale of connectivity in Britain and would unleash more competition.
“Ultimately, this would be better for customers and UK PLC who would benefit from more choice and better deals.
“We will be discussing these benefits of consolidation with Ofcom in the context of its Mobile Strategy Review.
“We welcome Ofcom’s clarification that it has no fixed position on mobile consolidation, and its recognition that what matters is the effectiveness of competition rather than just the number of competitors.”