UK mobile operator EE said its LTE customer base reached 2.9 million in the first quarter of 2014, keeping the company on track to exceed 6 million LTE users by the end of this year.
The operator, which is jointly owned by Deutsche Telekom and Orange Group, said it added 889,000 LTE customers in the first three months of the year, and also now provides its high-speed mobile services to 5,100 companies.
EE noted that one in four of its new customers opted for "double-speed" 4GEE Extra plans, with double-speed LTE now available in 20 cities and to 25 per cent of the population. Total LTE coverage is now at 72 per cent of the population or 46 million people, with the services now available in 200 towns and cities across the country.
Total operating revenue in the first quarter increased by 0.8 per cent to £1.48 billion (€1.79 billion/$2.49 billion) when excluding the impact of regulatory changes; including these changes revenue fell by 1.7 per cent. Total turnover was down 3.6 per cent at £1.54 billion.
The company also said it improved its subscriber mix in favour of postpaid subscribers in the quarter, with 59 per cent of its consumer and business customers now on postpaid plans. EE said postpaid users generate six times higher ARPU than prepaid customers, at £28.80 for postpaid compared to just £4.30 from prepaid. The company also noted that 50 per cent of new and renewing postpaid customers selected LTE. Postpaid churn is a relatively healthy 1.2 per cent.
Customer renewals largely stem from the existing Orange UK and T-Mobile UK customer bases. The fact that Orange and T-Mobile customers in the UK are increasingly moving to the 4GEE plans comes as little surprise: the two brands have as good as vanished from the UK market after EE closed down their separate online shops, marketing only a few select 3G plans from the two formerly separate operators on its web site.
EE also revealed that its total network connections--including customers served by mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), M2M, and fixed-line connections--fell to 30.7 million in the opening quarter of 2014, from 31.4 million in the same period of 2013. The number of MVNO customers increased by 3.2 per cent to 3.66 million.
The company reported 20,000 fixed-line additions in the quarter, and noted that these were largely driven by promotions on combined fixed/mobile packages.
Latest developments include the launch of the UK's first sub-£100 LTE smartphone, the Kestrel, in April. Meanwhile plans to float EE were put on hold in January by the two parent companies.
EE now faces competition on the UK LTE market from Vodafone UK, 3 UK and O2 UK. Vodafone in February reported that it had 500,000 LTE subscribers in the UK, while O2 UK confirmed in April it has around 1 million LTE customers.
See EE's Q1 2014 results
EE set to launch 'cheapest' UK LTE smartphone in April
EE boosts pre-tax earnings, brings jobs home to UK
Deutsche Telekom, Orange hold fire on EE IPO
EE reaches 2M LTE subscribers