Singapore Telecom says it is concerned that issuing a fourth mobile license for Singapore will damage supplier sustainability over the long term. Nobody would be too surprised by the expression of such sentiments. Leaders in any market do not relish the advent of new competition, for it virtually always leads to lower retail prices, which in turn lead to lower gross revenues and lower profit margins.

Would-be licensee MyRepublic says it will focus on innovation, not price competition.

Few observers likely believe that will initially prove to be the case. Most attacks by upstart mobile carriers globally have involved “innovation” around price, even if other elements, such as a reliance on Wi-Fi access, device bundling, contracts or zero rating sometimes also are introduced.

There is yet no consensus on “ideal” mobile market structures that encourage rapid innovation and yet also produce enough revenue and profit that all the suppliers can exist on an on-going basis. Some believe the “best” number is three; others believe “four” is the optimal number.

Those beliefs are unlikely to be changed much as we move towards 5G, which will mix and match access methods in new ways that blur the differences between fixed and mobile operators.

As always, how one defines a particular market is key. Over time, various “mixes” of virtualized mobile access and retail packages will increase the number of potential competitors able to enter and compete in “mobile” markets.

However true it has been that the maximum sustainable number of leading mobile providers in any market ranges between three and four, circumstances could change. New technologies, arc

In the U.S. fixed network market, as well as a growing number of European markets, there is a parallel development. Where it once was believed only a single operator was viable, it now is seen that, in some markets, at least two providers can sustain themselves.

The latest issue is whether, in some markets, the number might actually be “three.”