10 things we'd love the Orange/T-Mobile merger to mean...

The news of an Orange/T-Mobile merger was quite a lot for most of us to deal with this morning on the wrong side of a shower and a cup of coffee, but we are all assured through bleary eyes that the resulting largest network in the UK would bring "substantial benefits" to customers. Will it? Something about having a real competitor forVodafone and O2 to deal with seems like a good idea but how is having one less consumer choice going to affect things?

It's going to take the best part of 18 months before customers know where they stand but, in the mean time, here are our hopes and dreams for what those "substantial benefits" might be and how likely they are to happen.

1) Amazing 3G coverage

Likelihood:
2/5 bars of reception

If it were just a case of hooking all the masts up together, then that could be a wonderful thing but there a few problems here. Firstly, Orange shares its 2G and 3G masts with Vodafone who may not fancy going halves with the new and improved brand anymore. Secondly, T-Mobile and Orange have already said that they will decommission a number of masts. Now, these are most likely in places where they'll be doubled up so maybe that's ok. On the plus side, there should be a few holes plugged up here and there and it will mean slightly more choice for those, until now, stuck with either just T-Mobile or Orange for service in their area.

2) Sharing the cost of networks

Likelihood:
Full reception

This is one of the promises as made in the statement by the two mobile operators and, if they're good to their word, then no matter how many masts they decommission first, customers should eventually see a proper almost blanket mobile network over even the more remote regions . It might even kick start Vodafone and O2 into life - unless they want to share masts, that is.

3) They ditch the animal tariffs

Likelihood:
Full reception

One can't imagine that T-Mobile would be too keen to invite Panther and friends to the party and most consumers are fairly sick of trying to compare their habits to those of US garbage pests and aquatic mammals. T-Mobile has a decent history of some good names and interesting new package deals. There's a very good chance that it's their department that will lead the way here.

4) A mobile price drop

Likelihood:
1/5 bars of reception

This is probably the hardest of all to predict. On the one hand there'll be fewer companies and so less competition by numbers. On the other, there's a chance that a more serious threat to the biggest two of the big five might create a greater necessity than ever for consumer enticing prices. But what seems likely is that we'll see little net change in the end and costs will tend to be dictated by the latest services and handsets on offer, and which provider will have them.

5) O2 won't end up with all the best phones

Likelihood:
4/5 bars of reception

To be fair to both T-Mobile and Orange, they have done a good job lately of picking up a few exciting exclusives with both the G1 and the TG01 but when O2 has the Pre and the iPhone, it tends to feel a little sewn up. This new super-provider will certainly have the money to outbid O2 but will that just mean the phones get more expensive?

6) O2 sorts its coverage out

Likelihood:
3/5 bars of reception

Without picking on them too much, O2 does have a bit of a rep at the moment for a pretty shoddy signal strength on both 2G and 3G services. Much of that is to do with the way in which the company has tackled the market, and very successfully at that, but if the merged company does indeed have the biggest network, O2 might well be forced to catch up.

7) Orange Wednesdays for all

Likelihood:
4/5 bars of reception

It has to be just about the longest running mobile phone promotion in the world. Sure it only takes a PAYG SIM you never use to appreciate it but it's a big crowd-pleaser and it's formed some very useful commercial links between Orange and the film business. It'd be a shock if it didn't carry over but the name might have to change, as may the day of the week.

8) Improved customer service

Likelihood:
2/5 bars of reception

Orange took a bit of a battering after it first introduced its broadband package and it seems to have stuck. In theory the two customer service departments could combine ideas and come up with an excellent way of processing problems. Sadly, customer service is rarely the most important thing in the mobile world and, although Orange users might feel some improvements, it could well be a department where a lot of the jobs are lost.

9) 3 will flourish

Likelihood:
3/5 bars of reception

As the smallest of the five networks - sorry Virgin - 3 has done a lot of things for the users to be happy about; from the company's extensive HSDPA network to its whole hearted embracing of Skype . Should 3 continue its ethos if the company one day became top dog, it sounds like a pretty good deal for the consumer but it's unclear as to where they'll end up in 18 months time. The obvious fact is that they'll be the smallest of four by quite some way but whether this makes it easier than being the smallest of five is another question. It may also just make them prime candidates for a buy out.

10) They call themselves Earl Grey

Likelihood:
No signal

Wouldn't it just be very British to have a network named after a cup of tea and, seeing as it'll be a UK only venture, then why not? If you haven't figure it out, Earl Grey is T flavoured with Bergamot Oranges. So long as they don't insist on tariffs named after biscuits, we should be luck. Anyone else on Garibaldi?


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