In Q1 08, the UK mobile customer base saw its first quarterly decline for two years, shedding 119k customers to finish the quarter on 70.67m. This is equivalent to a penetration rate of 116.0%. The losses were widespread, with O2, T-Mobile, Virgin and Tesco all suffering net declines. A similar range of companies also lost customers in Q1 07, but in that quarter a strong performance from Vodafone (723k net additions) ensured that the total customer base grew; in Q1 08, however, the highest figure for net additions was Orange’s 114k. Hutchison gained 75k and Vodafone 41k, but O2 lost 79k, T-Mobile 71k, Virgin 68k and Tesco 100k.
Quarterly Net Additions, Q1 07 vs Q1 08
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On an annual basis, the Q1 08 loss was counterbalanced by a strong Q4 07 (1.89m net additions), leaving annual growth at 5.0%, almost exactly the same rate as the preceding 12 months (4.9%). However, there was no such consistency on the operator level. Virgin was down 0.9% to 4.42m having seen 3.2% growth in the previous year. O2 managed to record a year-on- year gain in customers, but its 4.7% growth rate was less than half the year- earlier figure of 10.2%. Tesco also saw its growth rate halved, from 35.9% to 17.9%, with a quarter-end customer base of 1.65m.
On the other hand, both T-Mobile and Orange improved dramatically on the 0.9% annual growth they both recorded in Q1 07. T-Mobile grew by 4.2% to 10.24m, while Orange saw a 4.4% uplift to 15.76m. However, Orange did not make any inroads into Vodafone’s lead, which it gained in Q1 07.
Vodafone was the most consistent performer in the market, edging its 6.9% growth rate up to 7.7% to finish the quarter 0.85m ahead of Orange on 16.60m. O2 remained the market leader, however, with 20.05m customers at the end of Q1 08.
W-CDMA connections surpassed the 10m mark during Q1 08 to finish the quarter on 10.83m, up from 7.1m a year earlier. This takes the W-CDMA proportion to 15.3%, up from 10.5%.
Source: Cellular News.