Orange adds 1.4m mobile customers in Q4

UK-mobile telecommunication provider Orange saw a robust surge in new subscribers in the fourth quarter in an overall strong year, the company and its prospective parent company, Mannesmann announced.

Orange added 2.73 million new customers in 1999, more than doubling its customer base. In the final three months of the year alone, 1.4 million customers signed up with Orange, Mannesmann said. The German telecommunications firm is in the process of acquiring Orange.

Orange is the first of the four UK mobile phone operators to post its annual subscriber numbers, with the other three also expected to announce figures today. In a variety news reports, analysts have speculated that the combination of the four networks will show a 40 per cent penetration rate of the UK population.

Mobile phones were the "must-have" Christmas present in the UK, especially with the widespread availability of prepaid mobile phones. During the month of December alone, Orange sold 856,000 phones in the UK, Mannesmann said.

In early December, the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel), the U.K. government's telecommunications regulator, predicted a total of 4 million handsets would be sold in the month of December, most of them prepaid.

Prepaid mobile phones made up the vast majority of phones sold by Orange in the fourth quarter of 1999. Out of the 1.4 million customers signed up in the quarter, 1.2 million of those were prepaid phones, bringing its total number of prepaid phone users to 2.5 million, Mannesmann said.

Orange now has a total of 4.9 million users, or one in 12 of the UK population.

Last month, the EU granted conditional approval for Mannesmann to purchase Orange, based on the provision that Mannesmann goes through with its commitment to sell its interests in Connect Austria, a mobile telephone operator.

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