Mobile network operator (MNO) Three has reported steady growth in both its customers and 4G network utilisation rates over the past 12 months.
Three said 42% of its customers – about 3.5 million – were now using 4G services, and in terms of data usage, they were leading the market at an average of 3.3GB downloaded per calendar month last year, up 60% from 2013.
Last year, Three added 478,000 active new customers, taking it to 8.4 million UK subscribers and pushing its earnings before interest and tax to £314m.
The operator is also about to add a number of new markets, notably holiday hotspot Spain, to its Feel At Home package. About 65% of overseas trips made by its subscribers will now be covered by the programme, which allows customers to use their mobiles as they would in the UK for no extra charge.
Three said Feel At Home customers were using 30 times more data than when travelling through a country not included in the package. Other markets covered by the scheme include France, Ireland, Italy and the US.
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It claimed that more than one-third of new and upgrading customers cited the Feel At Home package as one of the main reasons for joining or sticking with the network.
In its annual statement, Three said an ongoing programme of network enhancements around the UK, and improvements to customer service, meant it was now the operator least complained about by Ofcom, having been the subject of the most complaints about mobile networks in 2012.
Three chief executive Dave Dyson said: “By listening to our customers and focusing on their needs, our customers are happier than ever and their positive word of mouth is helping to attract more customers to Three.
“We will continue to enhance our network and provide the plans and offers to help customers stay connected in more places, both in the UK and overseas.”
CFO Richard Woodward added: “Our 2014 financial results demonstrate the successful execution of our strategy. New and existing customers are increasingly attracted to Three for our quality data network and offers like Feel At Home, which also means they are choosing to spend more and stay longer because of the value they receive.”
Hutchison Whampoa, Three's Far Eastern conglomerate parent, is currently locked in exclusive talks with Spanish telco Telefónica to acquire O2 for £10.25bn.
Should the acquisition go ahead, it would make Three the largest MNO in the UK by some margin, outflanking EE, itself in the process of being bought by BT.