Three cool over 4G as it sweeps up rivals’ users

THE UK’S fourth-largest mobile operator, Three, has continued to steal customers away from its bigger rivals despite the threat of O2, Vodafone and EE launching 4G networks months ahead of it.

The business, owned by Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, revealed yesterday that it had signed up 900,000 new customers in 2012, meaning that it now has 9.1m subscribers. Although its rivals all have upwards of 19m customers, Three is growing at a much faster rate.

New customers helped propel the firm to a nine per cent rise in sales during 2012 to £1.95bn. Earnings before interest and tax – an indicator of profitability – more than trebled to £101m, having reached positive figures for the first time in Three’s 10-year history in 2011.

Three has capitalised on the growing demand for data on smartphones, offering unlimited internet plans and investing in its 3G network. This has enabled it to attract data hungry customers, who take out relatively expensive contracts on high-end phones.

Three UK’s chief executive David Dyson said he was not concerned that his network would be the last to launch 4G services, which allow faster mobile downloads.

EE – the owner of Orange and T-Mobile – launched 4G last year, while O2 and Vodafone are set to follow in early summer with Three introducing it towards the end of the year. “A mass migration is hard to conceive, we’ve tested 4G and seen what it can deliver and our network stacks up very well,” Dyson said.