United Kingdom - Mobile Infrastructure, Broadband, Operators - Statistics and Analyses

Synopsis

The UK has one of the largest mobile markets in Europe, both in terms of revenue and in the number of subscribers. It is served by several major providers which also have a significant international presence. Recent merger activity has seen dramatic consolidation in the market which has also had knock-on effects for network infrastructure deals struck between operators. The merger of Orange and T-Mobile created EE as the largest operator in the country, and in January 2016 the unit was acquired by BT, which thereby returned to the mobile market after having left it some years before. By contrast, the bid by Hutchison to acquire O2 was rejected by the European Commission in May 2016 on the grounds that the deal would have reduced the number of MNOs to three, and so impacted on market competition.

The market has room for a growing number of low-cost MVNOs providing effective price and service competition for subscribers. The market has also been characterised by developments in advanced data services delivered over upgraded networks, the bundling of mobile as a quad-play service, and regulatory controls on charges and fees. Mobile penetration is above the EU average, and in common with developments in many other European markets subscriber growth has dipped in recent quarters as consumers respond to economic pressures and more generous pricing offers among operators which has negated some of the justifications for multiple SIM card ownership.

Auctions for spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands have made more bandwidth available for mobile broadband services, supported by regulatory moves which allow the refarming of 2G spectrum for 3G and 4G use. Spectrum will also be released in the 700MHz band, having been being allocated for 5G use. Operators have expanded the reach of 5G, having launched services progressively during 2019 with a number of key vendor partners.

This report surveys the UK’s mobile market, providing an overview of mobile statistics, regulatory issues and technologies. It also profiles the major operators and MVNOs and looks ahead to mobile market developments in coming years.

Key developments

  • Government commits £500 million to help LTE network sharing plan;
  • Vodafone to switch off its 3G network by 2022;
  • Virgin Media switches MVNO deal to Vodafone;
  • Ofcom completes 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum auction;
  • O2 becomes the last of the MNOs to launch 5G services;
  • New rates for MNP imposed;
  • Report update includes the regulator's market updates to June 2019, telcos' financial and operating data to Q3 2019, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

H3, Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere (BT/EE, incorporating the former T-Mobile UK and Orange UK), Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile

Table of Contents

  • Market analysis

  • Mobile statistics

  • Mobile infrastructure

    • 5G
      • Government support
      • Operators
    • 4G (LTE)
      • O2
      • EE
      • Vodafone
      • H3
    • 3G
      • Network sharing
      • H3
      • O2
      • Vodafone
      • T-Mobile / Orange
      • EE
    • Other infrastructure developments
      • M2M networks
      • NB-IoT
  • Mobile voice

  • Mobile data

    • SMS and MMS
    • Mobile broadband
  • Regulatory issues

    • Spectrum regulations
    • Spectrum refarming
    • Spectrum sharing
    • Spectrum 2.6GHz
    • Spectrum 800MHz
    • Spectrum 900MHz
    • Spectrum 700MHz
    • Spectrum 1800MHz
    • Spectrum 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz
    • Revised licence conditions
    • Other spectrum auctions
    • Multi-spectrum auction – 2020
    • Roaming
    • Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
    • Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs)
  • Major mobile operators

    • Hutchison 3
    • O2
      • Proposed sale to BT
      • Proposed sale to H3
    • Vodafone
      • Project Spring
      • Sales and acquisitions
    • EE
      • Sale to BT
    • Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
      • Mobile Virtual Network Enablers (MVNEs)
  • Mobile content and applications

    • Mobile applications
    • M-payment MNO collaboration
    • Contactless payments
    • m-ticketing
    • m-banking
    • m-health
  • Appendix – Historic data

  • Related reports


List of Tables

  • Table 1 – Growth in mobile voice traffic – 2010 – 2018
  • Table 2 – Change in mobile retail revenue by service – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 3 – Change in the number of active mobile subscribers and penetration – 2009 – 2024
  • Table 4 – Change in the number of mobile connections by type – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 5 – Decline in mobile ARPU by contract, prepaid – 2006 – 2018
  • Table 6 – Change in average household spend of fixed-voice and mobile services – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 7 – Change in the number of prepaid and contract subscribers – 2010 – 2018
  • Table 8 – Growth in the number of LTE subscribers – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 9 – Growth in O2’s LTE subscribers and penetration – 2014 – 2019
  • Table 10 – Growth in the number of M2M connections – 2010 – 2019
  • Table 11 – Growth in the number of O2’s M2M accesses – 2014 – 2019
  • Table 12 – Development of outgoing mobile voice traffic – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 13 – Growth in average mobile data traffic per user– 2011 – 2018
  • Table 14 – Growth in contract/prepaid mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2018
  • Table 15 – Decline in the volume of SMS and MMS messages sent – 2004 – 2019
  • Table 16 – Change in average SMS/MMS traffic per month by contract type – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 17 – Change in the number of dedicated mobile broadband subscribers – 2008 – 2019
  • Table 18 – Growth in the number of active mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 – 2024
  • Table 19 – MTRs by operator (pence per minute) – 2015 – 2018
  • Table 20 – Mobile interconnection traffic – 2007 – 2018
  • Table 21 – Growth in the number of H3’s registered subscribers by sector – 2008 – 2019
  • Table 22 – Growth in the number of H3’s active subscribers by sector – 2014 – 2019
  • Table 23 – Development of H3’s financial data – 2008 – 2019
  • Table 24 – Decline in H3’s annualised gross ARPU – 2009 – 2019
  • Table 25 – Development of O2’s financial data –2007 – 2019
  • Table 26 – Development of O2’s quarterly financial data –2013 – 2019
  • Table 27 – Change in O2’s mobile ARPU – 2006 - 2019
  • Table 28 – O2 proportion of data to service revenue – 2006 – 2019
  • Table 29 – Growth in the number of O2’s mobile subscribers by type – 2005 – 2019
  • Table 30 – Development of Vodafone’s mobile ARPU (blended, contract, prepaid) – 2005 – 2019
  • Table 31 – Vodafone (UK) subscribers and proportion prepaid – 2009 - 2019
  • Table 32 – Vodafone (UK) financial data – 2008 – 2020
  • Table 33 – Vodafone customer churn – 2007 – 2019
  • Table 34 – Vodafone Group revenue by sector – 2007 – 2020
  • Table 35 – Vodafone UK service revenue by sector – 2009 – 2020
  • Table 36 – Vodafone mobile customer retention cost – 2007 – 2020
  • Table 37 – Growth in Vodafone’s mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2019
  • Table 38 – Development of EE’s mobile revenue (new format under BT) – 2017 – 2020
  • Table 39 – EE quarterly consumer mobile revenue (new format under BT) – 2016 – 2020
  • Table 40 – Decline in EE’s ARPU – 2009 – 2019
  • Table 41 – Change in the number of Virgin Mobile’s mobile subscribers – 2015 – 2019
  • Table 42 – Development of Virgin Mobile’s revenue – 2007 – 2019
  • Table 43 – Historic - Mobile subscribers and SIM penetration rate – 1995; 1997; 1999 – 2009
  • Table 44 – Mobile retail revenue by service – 2002 – 2018
  • Table 45 – Historic - Virgin Mobile subscribers – 2005 – 2014
  • Table 46 – Average 3G and 4G speeds (Mb/s) – 2014 – 2015
  • Table 47 – Historic - Broadband take-up by technology – 2007 – 2016
  • Table 48 – Historic - Average household spend of fixed-voice, mobile and internet services – 2008 – 2016
  • Table 49 – Historic - Prepaid and contract subscribers – 2002 – 2009
  • Table 50 – Historic - Mobile market share by operator – 2004 – 2016
  • Table 51 – Historic – EE’s LTE subscribers – 2013 – 2015
  • Table 52 – Historic - SMS and MMS revenue – 2015 – 2017
  • Table 53 – Historic - EE subscriber data – 2009 – 2018

List of Charts

  • Chart 1 – Growth in mobile voice traffic – 2010 – 2018
  • Chart 2 – Change in mobile retail revenue by service – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 3 – Change in the number of active mobile subscribers and penetration – 2009 – 2024
  • Chart 4 – Change in the number of mobile connections by type – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 5 – Decline in mobile ARPU by contract, prepaid – 2006 – 2018
  • Chart 6 – Change in average household spend of fixed-voice and mobile services – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 7 – Change in the number of prepaid and contract subscribers – 2010 – 2018
  • Chart 8 – Growth in the number of LTE subscribers – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 9 – Growth in O2’s LTE subscribers and penetration – 2014 – 2019
  • Chart 10 – Growth in the number of M2M connections – 2010 – 2019
  • Chart 11 – Development of outgoing mobile voice traffic – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 12 – Growth in average mobile data traffic per user– 2011 – 2018
  • Chart 13 – Growth in contract/prepaid mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2018
  • Chart 14 – Decline in the volume of SMS and MMS messages sent – 2004 – 2019
  • Chart 15 – Change in average SMS/MMS traffic per month by contract type – 2010 - 2018
  • Chart 16 – Growth in the number of active mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 – 2024
  • Chart 17 – Growth in the number of H3’s registered subscribers by sector – 2008 – 2019
  • Chart 18 – Development of H3’s financial data – 2008 – 2019
  • Chart 19 – Decline in H3’s annualised gross ARPU – 2009 – 2019
  • Chart 20 – Development of O2’s financial data –2007 – 2019
  • Chart 21 – Development of O2’s quarterly financial data –2013 – 2019
  • Chart 22 – Change in O2’s annualised ARPU – blended, contract, prepaid and data – 2006 – 2019
  • Chart 23 – Growth in the number of O2’s mobile subscribers by type – 2005 – 2019
  • Chart 24 – Development of Vodafone’s mobile ARPU (blended, contract, prepaid) – 2005 – 2019
  • Chart 25 – Vodafone (UK) subscribers and proportion prepaid – 2009 – 2019
  • Chart 26 – Vodafone (UK) financial data – 2008 – 2020
  • Chart 27 – Growth in Vodafone’s mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2019
  • Chart 28 – Development of EE’s mobile revenue (new format under BT) – 2017 – 2020
  • Chart 29 – EE quarterly consumer mobile revenue (new format under BT) – 2016 – 2020
  • Chart 30 – Decline in EE’s ARPU – 2009 – 2019
  • Chart 31 – Change in the number of Virgin Mobile’s mobile subscribers – 2015 – 2019
  • Chart 32 – Development of Virgin Mobile’s revenue – 2007 – 2019

List of Exhibits

  • Exhibit 1 – 3G licence results – April 2000
  • Exhibit 2 – 3G licensee and infrastructure suppliers
  • Exhibit 3 – Spectrum available for mobile services
  • Exhibit 4 – Spectrum awards – 800MHz and 2.6GHz – 2013
  • Exhibit 5 – Spectrum awards – 2.3GHz, 3.4GHz – April 2018
  • Exhibit 6 – Spectrum auction results 10GHz – February 2008
  • Exhibit 7 – H3 spectrum concessions

Related Reports

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Licence Information

Focus Report Profile

Technologies

Mobile & Wireless Broadband and Media
Mobile Communications (voice and infrastructure)
Strategies & Analyses (Industry & Markets)

Number of pages 119

Status Current

Last updated 16 Dec 2019
Update History

Analyst: Henry Lancaster

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Paul, May I congratulate you on a very successful and enjoyable afternoon with the Minister. In providing the roundtable discussions between government and industry, it highlighted the strong interest by stakeholders in Broadband and its implementation but it also presented us with other issues and opportunities that we need to address.

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