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Hutch's Three UK users ripping through over 6GB a month

Looks 'forward to the next spectrum auction'. Yep, sounds about right

Three UK's mobile users are ripping through well over 6GB of data a month, prompting questions on whether the increase is sustainable.

The figure, for Three UK users over December, emerged from the ISP and mobile provider's annual financial results, announced today. Over Three’s many markets, its customers used an average of 51GB in the year, up from 38GB. Data usage per customer in the UK averaged 6.4GB in 2016, up from 5GB last year.

Owned by the vast CK Hutchison empire, Three UK reported revenue up 4 per cent year on year to £2.27bn, adding 6 per cent more subscribers. Of its 11.4 million active customers 6.4 million are on contracts, up 4 per cent, with prepay growing again, by 8 per cent. Average revenue per user (ARPU) fell 4 per cent from £20.10 to £19.24, and its more favoured metric of AMPU (average margin per user) falling 1 per cent to £12.76.

Three UK invested heavily in infrastructure earlier this decade, promoting itself as a data-ready network. But it’s hampered by being at the back of the queue for spectrum, and has been campaigning for Ofcom to impose a 30 per cent spectrum “cap” for any operator in the UK. The press release accompanying its results noted: "We look forward to the outcome of the next spectrum auction which will be vital in determining our ability to continue to challenge the market for the benefit of all UK consumers."

However recent research by industry analysts Rewheel suggests fears may be misplaced. Its latest Data Fuel Monitor report is bullish, suggesting that most European operators only utilise a “tiny fraction” of their available network capacity. If they implement improvements (eg, “massive MIMO”) they should be able to serve 200GB per person per month, or some 500GB per household per month.

The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone, which explains why legacy cable companies are so keen to merge with mobile operators. ®

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