Three overtakes EE in 5G race once again

(Image credit: Three)

Three’s solid growth continued during the first half of 2022, with the operator attracting more customers to its network and expanding its 5G network.

5G has now been switched on at more than 3,300 sites and coverage now stands at 56% of the UK population – one percentage point more than the 55% that rival EE claimed when it published its most recent financial results.

Meanwhile, Three’s 4G service is now accessible to 99% of the UK and the company has confirmed it intends to switch off 3G by the end of 2024 to focus on its more advanced infrastructure.

Three 5G

Three’s customers have traditionally used more data than their equivalent on other networks and this trend has continued. The average subscriber now consumes 21GB a month – an increase of 24% year-on-year, and its 4G network carries 28% of the UK’s mobile data traffic.

The number of active contract customers increased by 6% to 8.2 million – a figure that outperformed the rest of the market. When pay-as-you go customers are added into the mix, the base rose by 5% to 9.9 million.

This was boosted by an 8% increase in wholesale customers thanks to the efforts of its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners, while Three’s renewed push for the business market saw its B2B base more than doubled. Three’s 5G home broadband base more than trebled during the first six months of the year too.

This expansion means that although revenues remained flat at £1.18 billion, underlying profitability rose by 4% to £261 million.

“Our performance in the first half of 2022 is clear evidence of how our strategy to invest in our network and technology is delivering meaningful growth across our business divisions,” declared Three chief executive Robert Finnegan.  

“As a result, we added almost half a million contract customers year-on-year, adding almost as many contract customers as our competitors combined in H1. In addition, we are seeing an increasing contribution from a broader range of divisions such as B2B, SMARTY and Wholesale. Pleasingly, this resulted in an improved margin and increase in EBITDA.

“Beyond network investment, we have also made significant progress in the development of our customer propositions. Specifically, we continued to evolve our B2B offering – with this customer base increasing over 130% in the period – and we believe there is a lot more to come from Three Business.”   

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.