Mobile phone operators see surge in new subscribers

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THE GROWTH in the mobile phone market has shown no sign of a slowdown this year, it emerged yesterday after the UK's leading operators published their new subscriber figures.

Vodafone said it added more than twice as many subscribers in its fourth quarter as a year ago as falling call rates made more people buy mobiles.

Vodafone, the US's largest mobile phone operator, added a net 172,000 subscribers in the three months to 31 March, above expectations and up from the 67,000 new customers added in 1997's first quarter.

The company, which now has 3.43 million UK subscribers, also said it had more than doubled the number of its international subscribers over the last 12 months to 2.41 million.

Mobile phone operators in the UK and elsewhere in Europe have seen subscriber figures surge in recent years as falling call rates and declining prices for mobile phones have attracted more customers.

Vodafone shares closed 3.5 pence higher at 628.5p.

Rival Cellnet, which is 60 per cent-owned by British Telecom and 40 per cent by Securicor, said it added a net 88,000 subscribers in the quarter, up from 12,000 in the year-earlier period. Cellnet now has 3.08 million subscribers. BT shares rose 21p to 671p, while Securicor shares fell 3.5p to 404.5p.

One-2-One, which is equally owned by Cable & Wireless and US West International, a unit of US West Media Group, said its subscriber base grew by 184,000 customers in the quarter, compared with 75,000 in the year-earlier period. The company now has 1.2 million customers. Cable & Wireless shares fell 0.5p to 747p.

Orange has yet to release its subscriber figures. The company's shares surged 25.5p to 406p.

- Bloomberg