Market revenue growth of 2% in Q3 was slightly lower than the previous quarter, but remained firmly positive at least.

The dual impacts of slowing broadband volume growth and consumer price sensitivity will likely hit volumes and ARPU even harder over the tough winter to come.

Inflation-linked price increases will give some operators a boost next year, but their very high levels (c.15%) will be hard to manage during a cost-of-living squeeze.

Cost-of-living pressures and tougher fixed competition drove VMO2’s revenues (just) back into negative territory this quarter.

Synergy benefits, however, delivered impressive EBITDA growth (+5%) with more to come as the Virgin Mobile MVNO shifts on-network next quarter.

We struggle to foresee convergence becoming the company’s next growth driver as trailed by the CEO, but the mobile outlook is fairly robust and there are steps that can be taken to shore up the pressurised fixed business.

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.

European mobile service revenue growth increased by 1ppt to +1.6% this quarter, with this improvement largely driven by higher-than-inflation price increases in the UK.

The outlook for Q3 is mixed with an increased roaming boost expected, but the B2B sector will remain challenging and the impact of the rollout of out-of-contract notifications in EU countries will mount.

There are signs of some upward pricing movement beyond the UK, particularly in Spain as the operators seek to cushion the blow of rising costs and inevitable economic pressure.

Mobile service revenue growth rose to its highest level in over ten years (+4.5%) as a result of the operators’ higher-than-inflation price rises.

BT/EE fared best with broadly-applied, sizeable increases and robust churn while H3G’s more modest increases and later timing led to just a minor pickup in its service revenue growth—in spite of continued strong performance on the subscriber side.

There are some early signs of an increase in consumer bargain-hunting and some payment challenges, with B2B robust for now but with an increasingly rocky outlook.

Market revenue growth continued to accelerate in Q2 to reach 3%, but broadband growth worryingly dipped as the lockdown boost waned.

Differing pricing dynamics (among other factors) led to very different outcomes for the main players, with BT’s growth surging to 7% while VMO2’s revenue stayed in decline.

Underlying trends of weakening broadband growth, keener pricing and customer bargain seeking point to slower growth ahead … until the next price increase.

VMO2 struggled to fully capitalise on its price increases this quarter, with much of the benefits absorbed by retention discounts and tariff pressure.

EBITDA growth of 4% is nonetheless a solid result in a challenging market and guidance looks achievable, albeit not as easily as it previously did.

The opaque nature of the relationship with the new network company makes it difficult to establish whether VMO2 is capitalising on the current glut of speculative infrastructure investment, or is at risk of being a victim of it.

Press reports suggest that VMO2 is in the early stages of negotiating a deal to buy TalkTalk, which has reportedly been for sale since April.

There is strong industrial logic to the deal, with a sub-brand useful and significant synergies from moving the TalkTalk base to VMO2’s network, with the latter gain at Openreach’s expense.

The main hurdle for the deal would be regulatory clearance, with there being major issues for the CMA—from a range of angles—for such a large in-market merger.

With the cost-of-living crisis expected to worsen over the coming months, the telecoms operators must walk a fine line—support customers but protect their financial performance in the face of a likely recession and rising costs.

We are likely to see weakness on the B2B side and consumers will look for ways to reduce out-of-bundle spend, seek retention discounts and spin down to lower speed tiers and data bundles, but we expect that dropping services completely will hold limited appeal.

Proactive retention activity and promotional pricing is likely to pay off more than slashing headline prices, and will help to avoid a damaging price war—a far bigger risk to their revenues than spin-down.

European mobile service revenue growth was positive for the first time in five years this quarter as a resurgent mobility boost combined with the return of roaming revenues.

Q2 is set to be a mixed bag, with inflation-plus price increases expected in the UK, an elevated boost from the roaming recovery, but also some weakness in the B2B market.

We are also seeing the early impact from end-of-contract notification rules, particularly in Germany, and we expect ARPU pressure and churn to pick up elsewhere as the impact becomes more widespread.