Whether to allow a Vodafone/H3G merger is essentially a trade-off between range of consumer choice and costs of network duplication. With the need for the former diminishing and the latter increasing, the case for approval is strengthened.
H3G is in a negative spiral of small scale, low investment, and low returns. A merger would allow it to form part of a more credible competitor with a transformed returns profile—without rising prices or reduced industry investment levels.
The CMA’s aversion to mergers has been very stringent of late—an approach that risks deterring investment and compromising competitiveness. Consolidation in UK mobile is unlikely to happen without a change of mindset.