There are four main players in the UK's mobile telecoms market, all regulated by OFCOM, the British Office of Communications. At the end of 2009, the UK was noted to have 80.375 million subscribers â a penetration of 130.55%.
Today's leading operator, based on subscriber numbers are Orange and T-Mobile. Orange, part of the larger France Telecom Group put forward a proposal to merge with T-Mobile in 2009. In 2010, the proposed deal was approved by regulators. Previously, T-Mobile UK had been the third largest player in the mobile space, owned by German company Deutsche Telekom. At present, both brands still exist on the high street, although these will be phased out next year and a new single brand, the generically-named 'Everything Everywhere' will be unveiled to British consumers.
Second is O2, a brand owned by Telefonica. O2 were owned by fixed line telecoms provider, BT, until the company decided to sell the brand to Telefonica in 2001. O2 was the first mobile telecoms provider to sell the iPhone in the UK, and today is focused on developing mobile financial services, under the name O2 Money. O2 has a number of environmental awareness and carbon reduction programs in place.
Third player in the market is Vodafone, who were one of the first players in the UK market. Vodafone leads the way in consumer and business mobile. Many large UK companies choose Vodafone for their high quality of service. Vodafone are also the first UK provider to roll out HSPA+ networks in the UK, to deliver the next generation of mobile technology to it's customers.
The next player in the mobile telecoms space is 3, who is the brand name of Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd, whose UMTS network spans Britain. 3's entrance to the mobile telecoms market in 2003 shook the market, offering cheaper tariffs than their competitors, which soon attracted a large following. However, complaints around 3's breadth of network coverage and poor customer service have done long-term damage to the brand's perception. That said, 3 still delivers many innovative services to customers, the latest being free Skype-to-Skype calls from any 3 handset.
There are also a number of MVNO's (Virtual mobile network operators). MVNO's offer a service to customers, but does not own any of the associated telecoms infrastructure. Instead, network services are leased from the above mobile operators. The leading names are Giffgaff (O2), Asda Mobile (Vodafone), Tesco Mobile (O2) and Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile (T-Mobile).