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Three's Chief Executive David Dyson has fuelled rumours the mobile broadband provider could be considering a move for rival network operator O2.

Speaking to the Guardian, he predicted that the number of mobile network operators could soon fall from four - O2, Vodafone, Three and EE - to three.

Mr Dyson said a round of industry consolidation is possible from 2014, leaving a trio of strong UK operators at the end of the process.

Three is, at present, the smallest of the UK mobile carriers with 7.8 million customers and a ten per cent market share.

However, the service provider is continuing to grow, and parent company Hutchison Whampoa has already agreed a deal to buy O2's Irish business.

While Three has previously opposed a reduction in the number of UK mobile operators - warning of the potential for consumer price rises - it appears to have softened this stance.

Mr Dyson said that "under the right circumstance", the British market could be competitive with just three, or with up to five mobile service providers.

He added that pressure from web-based communication platforms and regulatory changes is impacting on industry revenues, at a time when operators need to make a significant investment in next-generation connectivity.

EE, O2, Vodafone and Three have all now launched 4G networks to varying degrees, with Three the last of the four operators to begin offering super-fast mobile services in December 2013.

Mr Dyson noted that all eyes will be on the German market in the coming months, where Telefonica's O2 arm is seeking to merge with E-Plus.

Should regulators approve this deal, it would reduce the number of network owners from four to three - and potentially spark similar activity in the UK market.

With Telefonica looking to reduce existing debt levels, the firm may welcome a bid - or a merger proposal - for its O2 business in Britain.

So the question is, does this fit in with Three's ambitious expansion plans?

"We are three years into a five-year plan to double our customer base from five million to ten million," Mr Dyson stated.

"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."

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