Consumers overwhelmingly feel they’ll get a raw deal from the contracting telecommunications market, as looming landmark mergers threaten to cut the number of major UK operators from five to three.
Earlier this year, BT agreed to acquire EE in a £12.5 deal that's pending regulatory approval.
The mooted buyout comes as Three's parent company Hutchison Whampoa is moving to acquire O2 for £9 billion. This is also subject to approval from competition authorities.
However, while carriers may convince regulators that reducing the number of operators will not result in less competition and higher prices for Britons, it seems consumers are decidedly wary. To say the least.
In a poll of 620 uSwitch Tech site users, nearly three quarters (73.7% of the sample) said consumers stand out to lose out from the looming spate of consolidation, most likely through higher tariffs and monthly charges.
Reduced levels of competition could also heavily impact on standards of service provision and network coverage, as well as resulting in fewer and less appealing customer incentives.
Britons’ fears over the shifting sands in the smartphone sector are lent more than a layer of credence by overseas markets where three operators dominate.
In Canada, for instance, many customers are still tied into restrictive three-year smartphone contracts, which long ago disappeared in the UK.
Prices in Austria, meanwhile, rose after the number of mobile market operators dropped from four to three.
Conversely, the UK carriers looking to merge, along with a smattering of industry experts, have countered that in Ireland a similar reduction in carriers has occurred and that prices have not increased.
It has also been argued by some tech watchers that the telecoms giants that emerge from the mergers will be able to offer consumers quad-play deals (combining TV, broadband, mobile and home phone) at much lower prices than they are are currently paying for the individual services.