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Friday, 29 October, 1999, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Mobile phones - a growth industry
Sales are up and rising
The phenomenal rise of the mobile phone has seen its image change from a yuppie status symbol to a daily essential.

Mobile merger battle
Along the way, it has created thousands of jobs, changed the way we do business, and made an awful lot of money for investors.

More than 120m people in Western Europe now own a mobile phone, and their use is growing exponentially in the UK, where a third of the population now owns one.

No longer just for yuppies
By the end of next year, analysts say, that will have risen to 50%.

Nothing, it seems, can stop the increasing love affair with mobile phones.

Telcoms watchdog Oftel has suggested the industry is anti-competitive, yet twice as many people are signing up for a mobile this year than last.

While health scares have had a devastating affect on the market for genetically-modified food, concerns over a link between mobile use and brain tumours has done nothing to stem the devices rise in popularity.

And the industry feels growth will increase still further in the coming years.

Pay-as-you-go

Central to the mobile's increase in popularity has been a repositioning of its image.

The market was actually slow to take off in the UK. Complex air-time tariffs and controversy over hidden costs, coupled with its image as a yuppie toy good for little more than disturbing a quite restaurant meal, kept its popularity down for a while.

But the big four UK mobile phone companies, Vodafone, Cellnet, Orange and One 2 One, have repositioned the mobile as an essential, and accessible, piece of kit.

One of the driving factors behind recent healthy sales has been the introduction of pay-as-you-go schemes and deals to sell the phones through supermarkets.

This has taken much of the mystery and at least the perception of mobiles as a minefield of hidden costs and binding contracts.

More than half of all One 2 One users, for instance, are now on a pre-pay arrangement.

Next generation telephones

The big four added a record 2.7m new UK subscribers in the third quarter of 1999 - a rise made all the more remarkable by the fact that the period is usually the slowest for the industry as many people wait for the Christmas run-up before buying a phone.

And the companies are confident that the market is far from saturation point.

Their forecasts suggest that sales may even increase among existing users, with people using two mobiles - the mobile phone's dual purpose as business tool and as fashion accessory meaning people having one for work and one for leisure.

Sales are also expected to be driven by the next generation of mobiles coming into service in the next few years.

Internet access, e-mail, video conferencing and computer services will all be available via a telephone handset.

With the mobile set to be the most essential piece of business equipment, as well as social necessity then, as one company puts it in its advertising slogan, the future's bright.

See also:

06 Oct 99 | Business
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02 Aug 99 | Business
06 Aug 99 | Business
04 Aug 99 | Business
27 Jul 99 | Business
Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


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