The growing appetite for super-fast internet access on smartphones and tablets was underlined today by mobile giant EE, which said that almost half a million customers signed up for its premium 4G service in just the last three months.
EE, owner of T-Mobile and Orange, added 493,000 4G customers to take its base to 1.2 million — ahead of its target of a million in the 12 months to the end of 2013 and of rivals Vodafone and O2, which only launched 4G this August. Chief executive Olaf Swantee said 4G, which allows speeds of up to 10 times the existing 3G network, was enabling users to watch TV and video for “longer sessions” on the go. Video-clip sites YouTube and Daily Motion are the most popular but increasing numbers are watching BBC iPlayer’s full-length shows.
EE is poised to float on the stock market with a £10 billion valuation next year. Swantee admitted “the IPO market seems strong”, referring to the rash of recent floats, but said EE’s owners are “not in a hurry”.
He hit out at regulator Ofcom’s plans to quadruple the cost of the annual licence of all the mobile operators, with EE facing a bill of £107 million, and plans to lobby Whitehall.
Total customer numbers slipped to 27.4 million as pre-pay customers fell, but at a slower rate than previously.