Euro Carriers Ring Up The Subs
By Carlo Longino, Wed Jan 28 20:45:00 GMT 2004

European-based carriers Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Telefonica all reported significant subscriber additions in the last quarter, reinforcing earlier figures on industry growth.

Vodafone, the world's biggest carrier by revenue, still falls short of China Mobile in number of subscribers, but it did top 130 million last quarter, after the carrier added about 5 million users around the world. Vodafone released its other key performance indicators, and things look good for the global giant, as global ARPU was stable, and data revenues grew to 15.9% of service revenues for the nine months to December, up from 15.5% in the six months ending in September. Take messaging out of that, and data revenues are only 1.6% of the total, though that's more than double the figure from the previous year.

This good news was tempered a bit by some signs of trouble at Vodafone's Japanese unit, where ARPU slid due to pre-pay takeup and heavy competition. Vodafone KK also cut its earnings forecast for the fiscal year due to increased customer acquisition and retention costs. Its competitors are expected to post solid third-quarter results, thanks to the continued growth of data services like picture and video messaging.

T-Mobile also increased its global subscriber base by 7.1 million to 61 million, with strong gains at its US unit, which is the biggest winner so far from wireless number portability rules introduced towards the end of the fourth quarter, and increased its overall subscribers by 32% in 2003. T-Mobile also gained subscribers in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and its other European holdings.

Spain's Telefonica raised its group-wide susbscriber total to 52 million, up 25% for the year. The company reported solid gains in its home market, and strong growth in its Latin American units, particularly Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Peru as well as in Morocco.

These numbers reinforce earlier figures on both handset sales and overall GSM subscriber growth, pointing that for well-positioned carriers, things are on the upswing.