In most countries in Europe, there are four mobile networks for customers to choose from. To me from a consumer point of view it seems to be the "lucky" number as in countries with fewer network operators, real competition often doesn't get a chance and network quality and prices are not where they are in other countries.
A case in point is France, where until last year there were only three network operators served the market with pretty much the same prices. Not a lot of competition as could have been clearly seen in the prepaid market which was one of the most unattractive ones in Europe, with validity dates of only 1-3 months for top-ups.
A lot has happened in the 12 months since Free has started, however, and prices have come down quite considerably to a more "European" average level. Lots of complaints could have been heard in the time since, including parliamentary hearings, etc. And it seems feelings are still running high, according to the following quote from Stephane Roussel, SFR's CEO:
'The number of mobile operators in France is clearly excessive, unreasonable in my opinion.’
I find the words "excessive" and "unreasonable" quite interesting. So the situation in a lot of other countries, in which the four network operator system works quite well is clearly excessive and unreasonable? Further, in his opinion, to quote the article linked to above, three network operators would be ideal. Hm, for the network operators or for the customers?