3 UK unfazed by LTE deployment race, adds 900K subs in 2012

3 UK, the UK's smallest mobile operator, said the quality of its 3G network will stop its data-hungry subscribers defecting to rival LTE services before it turns on its own 4G network. The operator expects to launch LTE toward the end of 2013.

Dave Dyson

The company, which acquired 800 MHz spectrum in the recent LTE auction, said it's in no rush to launch LTE, with CEO Dave Dyson telling Reuters that its subscribers are not concerned about the underlying network technology as long as they are able to consume plenty of data on the move.

"Our network stacks up very well," Dyson said. "Right now the latest version of 3G and the early versions of LTE are not dramatically different and I am very confident that our customers are getting the right experience."

"However, realistically, I think it's going to be towards the end of the year before you see us launch LTE as a technology," Dyson told Reuters.

The operator, which labels its 3G network as "ultrafast," has promised not to charge more when it adds LTE to its tariff mix.

The company also announced it had attracted over 900,000 new customers over the past 12 months--outstripping its much larger UK rivals, and driven earnings up by 237 per cent to more than £100 million. The operator now has 9.1 million registered subscribers.

"We've spent years building the right network, building the right regulatory environment, and we are now starting to see the fruits of some very hard work," 3 UK CFO Richard Woodward told the Daily Telegraph.

Over the same period, Vodafone UK added 214,000 customers, Telefónica's O2 UK gained nearly 697,000, while EE lost 686,000 users in 2012.

Of note, 3 UK parent Hutchison Whampoa said in its annual statement (PDF) that 3 Group Europe is considering emulating what some other mobile operators have already done by eliminating handset subsidies.

"Further progress in the transition to a non-subsidised handset model in its customer base, together with gradual stabilisation of European mobile termination regimes, are expected to further improve the division's contributions to the Group's overall results going forward," the company said in a statement.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Daily Telegraph article
- see this Total Telecom article

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