Orange tops mobile phone growth table

Stiff competition for mobile phone customers in the spring saw Vodafone drop to last place in the race to expand the four UK networks while Orange maintained its lead. Figures released yesterday showed Vodafone's net UK subscriber base grew by just 53,000 between April and June to 2.9 million, down from 67,000 in the first quarter of the year and 146,000 in the last quarter of 1996.

Analysts blamed the drop on a tougher credit control policy introduced by Vodafone into service providers which sold the group's airtime. Chris Gent, Vodafone's chief executive, said the reduction in customer contracts from 15 to 12 months had depressed the figures by some 35,000.

Orange, the newest network, topped the growth table for the second quarter in a row, though the increase of 86,000 to 980,000 was below the 109,000 recorded between January and March. Orange announced it had moved into the black, before deducting interest, taxes and depreciation costs, in April.

The biggest turnaround came from Cellnet, which added 74,000 net new customers between April and June. The first quarter had been disastrous, with an increase of just 12,000.

One 2 One will later this week reveal subscriber growth of just below 80,000.

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