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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 17:32 GMT
Mobile users flock to Virgin
Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson: Subscriber growth 'fantastic'
Virgin Mobile has announced a 22% rise in subscriptions during the final three months of 2001, wrong-footing forecasts of flatter demand for mobile phones.

The company said 264,359 new subscribers signed up between September and December, giving it a total of 1.4 million customers.

The news helped to lift shares in Carphone Warehouse, one of Virgin's main distributors, 3.5p higher to 113.5p on Thursday afternoon.

Virgin Mobile itself is not listed on any stock market.

Ready-to-use phones popular

Analysts said the company's subscription numbers received a late boost as Christmas gift buyers snapped up its ready-to-use handsets, operated using pre-paid vouchers.

Virgin Mobile, the smallest of the UK's five main mobile phone operators, does not have its own network but leases bandwidth from number four operator One2One.

This enables it to operate more cheaply than its competitors.

The four major mobile phone companies, all network operators, are due to announce sales figures for the three months to December in the coming weeks.

Virgin Mobile boss Sir Richard Branson described the growth in subscriber numbers as "fantastic".

With the UK market for mobile telephones widely reckoned to be approaching saturation, most analysts had expected flat sales during the final quarter of 2001.

Virgin Mobile said it aims to continue growing this year by increasing the number of retail outlets which stock its handsets.

See also:

29 Jul 01 | Business
BT faces threat from Virgin
15 Jun 01 | Business
Virgin Mobile eyes the US
03 Apr 01 | Business
Pay-as-you-go price hike
26 Mar 01 | Business
Vodafone lifts pre-pay prices 40%
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