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Three reaches 10 million customer milestone

UK’s smallest “big four” mobile operator reflects on a solid year as it gears up for the imminent spectrum auction

Mobile network operator (MNO) Three has reported solid annual growth in revenues and customer numbers, and said its contract handset churn is at its lowest-ever level.

In its full-year results for 2017, the CK Hutchison-owned operator said its sales grew by 7% to £2.4bn, and its active customer base expanded by 10% to 10 million, thanks to contract and prepaid growth. Its margin grew by 3% to £1.5bn as a result of this, with each customer generating an average margin of £12.04.

These customers are using an average of 6.8GB of 4G mobile data per month, accounting for more than 30% of total mobile data usage in the UK.

CEO Dave Dyson reflected on a transformative year, which saw heavy expenditure on Three’s network and internal IT systems. This was reflected in its earnings, which dropped by 12% to £437m.

“Our results reflect Three’s ongoing commitment to growth and becoming the best-loved brand by our customers,” said Dyson.

“We have invested significant time and money in the future growth and scalability of the business. Our digital transformation is a programme of work that will significantly enhance customer experience, employee experience and cost efficiency.

“Investment in spectrum, next-generation network and IT underpins the opportunity to deliver improved results over the long term.”

The operator’s digital transformation saw an investment of more than £100m in new IT and a core network infrastructure upgrade, as well as new transmission and datacentres to give users an improved overall experience.

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  • At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, 5G mobile networks were the talk of the show, and a number of operators announced new collaborations around the emerging network standard with their technology partners.

It also splashed out on UK Broadband, the company behind the Relish internet service provider (ISP), marking its first foray into the world of home broadband services.

Three will be reaching for its chequebook again very soon, when bidding in the auction of spectrum in the 2.3 and 3.4GHz frequency bands to support 4G expansion and future 5G roll-out begins on Tuesday 20 March 2018.

Five bidders will now take part – down from six – after Ofcom revealed that despite its initial enthusiasm, Hull-based wireless provider Connexin has withdrawn from the process. The five bidders moving forward through the process will therefore now be Airspan, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

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