Confidential industry figures for November show that sales are running well ahead of the most optimistic forecasts, even before the crucial Christmas selling season has got into full swing.
The main beneficiaries of the bonanza are the country's two largest operators, Vodafone and Cellnet. Vodafone is understood to have sold 225,000 phones in November alone, regaining the lead in the industry from its main rival, Cellnet, which is thought to have attracted 190,000 new users.
Orange and One2One are each estimated to have signed up 100,000 new customers, taking the total number of phones sold since the end of September to comfortably above the 1 million level. This compares with earlier forecasts that 1.5 million new users would sign up in the final quarter of the year.
The mobile phone boom is the result of the introduction of new pay-as- you-go services which dispense with contracts and monthly subscription fees. More than two-thirds of the phones sold by Vodafone and Cellnet are believed to be so-called "phones in a box".
The two companies have pioneered selling the packages through supermarket retailers at aggressive low prices. Both Tesco and Asda, through deals with Vodafone and Cellnet respectively, now offer pre-paid phones for as little as pounds 69.99.
Vodafone has also clinched a deal with Shell to sell top-up vouchers for its pre-paid service in the oil giant's petrol stations.
The only drag on sales has been the shortage of available handsets. Cellnet has already admitted that some shops are running out of stock. Industry sources believe Vodafone is suffering from similar problems in certain stores.Reuse content