UK mobile market Q2 2013: 4G on a budget

22 August 2013

UK mobile market revenue growth improved in Q2, rising to -3.6% from -5.0% in the previous quarter, but we see this as driven entirely by an easing in the regulated MTR impact, with underlying growth actually dropping. O2’s revenue growth has continued to improve, Vodafone and EE’s revenue growth both improved roughly in line with the market, and H3G’s growth declined but remained much above the other three Both Vodafone and O2 announced plans to launch 4G on 29 August but both also have modest roll-out plans, with only 13 cities due to be covered by the end of the year, leaving both with less than half the coverage of EE, and H3G is not planning to launch until Q4. There is some debate over how much consumers are likely to value 4G, with a number of consumer surveys putting interest at a low level. Our own survey is consistent with this, but reveals that interest among high-end smartphone owners – who tend to spend more on handsets and airtime – is very much higher O2 is now selling all its upper end contract plans under the ‘O2 Refresh’ structure, which splits handset and airtime fees but in such a way as to allow it to make good margins on handset sales, a clever way to take advantage of smartphone popularity as opposed to working against it as many operators do. The other operators may well follow suit

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