Hutchison Whampoa hopes to buy O2 UK for $15 billion

The pairing-off of major U.K. telecommunications players continues: On Friday, Three’s Hong Kong owner, Hutchison Whampoa, said it was now in exclusive takeover discussions with Telefónica’s O2.

The merry dance began last November, when fixed-line player BT (the company that once spun out what became O2) said it wanted to get back into the mobile game, and was considering buying either EE (joint-owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and France’s Orange) or O2. Hutch waded in days later, indicating that it was also mulling a purchase of EE or O2.

In December, BT formally announced that it was in exclusive talks to pick up EE for just under $20 billion. So it’s no surprise to see Hutch now doing the same with Three – a move that would reduce the number of network-owning British carriers from four to three.

As things stand, Spain’s Telefónica would get £9.25 billion ($13.86 billion) in cash for O2, which it would no doubt use to pursue further consolidation opportunities in other markets – last year it bought KPN’s German E-Plus subsidiary, for example.

It could also look forward to “deferred upside interest sharing payments of up to a further £1 billion in the aggregate payable after the cumulative cash flow of the combined businesses of Hutchison 3G UK Limited and O2 UK has reached an agreed threshold,” according to the statement.

All this depends on due diligence, agreement on terms and regulatory approval. At the EU level, digital economy commissioner Günther Oettinger says he’s keen to see more consolidation in European telecoms, so as to create bigger regional rivals to U.S. carriers. Though this, of course, would be a larger Hong Kong-owned player.

Telefónica already got rid of its U.K. fixed-line business in 2013, selling it to BSkyB for $300 million.

Vodafone reportedly in talks to buy Spain’s Ono for $10B

Vodafone(s vod) may buy Ono, a major Spanish cable company, for around $10 billion. According to sources quoted by Reuters and Bloomberg, Ono has postponed a planned IPO announcement to allow further negotiations over the Vodafone bid. Two previous offers have been rebuffed for being too low. The British mobile carrier group is on a fixed-line acquisition spree after Verizon(s vz) bought out its stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion — it bought Kabel Deutschland in Germany last October for $10.4 billion, and it plans to use that buy as a “hub” for further non-mobile expansion.

Wikipedia chief Wales becomes co-chair of UK carrier The People’s Operator

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has gone into the mobile carrier business, buying a stake in and becoming co-chair of The People’s Operator. TPO, which is little more than a year old, is a community-oriented UK operator that passes 10 percent of customers’ bills and 25 percent of TPO profits to “good causes” (Wired UK has a good interview with Wales that goes into cause selection). The virtual network operator also said said on Monday that it would launch in the U.S. next. “TPO has huge potential for viral growth and the more it grows, the more money will pass to the people and communities that need it,” said Wales.

UK carrier EE claims fastest 4G sign-up rate outside South Korea

The British carrier EE, which got a headstart on its rivals in offering high-speed 4G/LTE mobile broadband, said on Tuesday that it now has over 2 million 4G subscribers. What’s more, takeup seems to be accelerating – it took 10 months to score a million, and only 4 months to score the second million – and EE claimed it has the fastest 4G sign-up rate outside South Korea. The company, a joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Orange, also said its LTE services would cover 70 percent of the UK population by the end of this month.