The mobile industry is on the brink of a major wave of consolidation, but European operators appear reluctant to be the first to take the plunge, according to industry observers.
Naguib Sawiris, CEO of Egypt's Orascom, told the New York Times that he expects a period of consolidation to begin which will last several years.
Financial consulting firm Perella Weinberg Partners agreed that mergers and acquisitions are bound to increase, barring a major reversal of fortunes for the market.
A spate of failed acquisitions in recent years means other industry players are more cautious.
France Telecom failed to acquire TeliaSonera in 2008, and India's Bharti and Reliance missed out on South Africa's MTN.
There was some cause for optimism last week, when Bharti completed its purchase of Zain, but the NYT reports major players including Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and France Telecom have all told their investors they are not planning any major mergers or acquisitions.
Analysis firm Mergermarket says operator spending on M&A fell from $284.7 billion in 2005 to $80.4 billion last year, but believes the market is showing signs of picking up, with around $31 billion already spent by operators so far in 2010.