mmO<sub>2</sub> comes clean on sales ahead of 3G launch

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The Independent Online

Mmo2 finally joined the next generation of mobile phone companies yesterday, setting 1 February as the date for its full launch of 3G phones in the UK.

The news came as mmO2 reported UK customer growth of just 360,000 in the last three months of 2004. Across the group, it won 1.1 million new customers, taking its customer base to 23.2 million. Analysts congratulated mmO2 for being the first operator to "come clean" on its UK sales figures.

It stripped out 250,000 sales from existing customers switching to a new handset or a new SIM card. In these cases, both SIM cards can be active before the old one expires, which can lead to double counting.

The company will initially start selling pay-monthly 3G phones, with pre-pay versions following shortly afterwards. Peter Erskine, the chief executive, said the UK market remained "highly competitive". He admitted to being surprised by the company's performance in Germany, where it won 729,000 customers, trumping T-Mobile, the market leader.

T-Mobile announced a 15.5 per cent rise in numbers across Europe yesterday, but reported 519,000 net new customers in the UK in the fourth quarter of 2004. It warned that industry sales figures should be treated with caution.