EE reaches 12.6 million 4G customers

EE is on the brink of hitting its target of 14 million 4G customers by the end of the year, counting 12.6 million subscribers in its latest quarter announced today.

The mobile operator added 1.7 million new 4G smartphone users to its network in the three months ending September, and 4G users now account for more than half its entire mobile customer base.

It remains on track to reach its target of 14 million users come December, having added 1.7 million, 1.5 million and 1.7 million respectively in its three most recent quarters.

Neal Milsom, CFO of EE, said: "We've seen strong commercial momentum as business and consumers embrace the benefits of our network, with more than two-thirds of postpaid mobile customers now using 4G, providing a solid platform for the future."

The company also gave an update on its 4G rollout schedule, claiming its network is now available to 93 per cent of the UK while double-speed 4G is available to 75 per cent of the population.

Its business base grew too, and is up seven per cent year-on-year, with new public sector wins in Lancashire Constabulary and Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

The Royal Mail Group is also the first customer of EE Connect, a 4G Internet of Things platform that lets companies manage their connected device deployments.

EE's latest results come ahead of its acquisition by telco giant BT, in a merger worth 12.5 billion.

Market regulator Ofcom expressed concern earlier this month over mergers in the sector, citing BT-EE and Three's mooted takeover of O2, saying it could harm competition.

CEO Sharon White said: "If the current merger wave continues, there are risks to consumers and businesses who have enjoyed one of the most competitive markets of recent years."

While the regulator has no power to approve to dismiss such mergers (it is the Competition and Markets Authority considering it), it has just completed a ten-year review of the telecommunication market, and could call for BT and its broadband arm, Openreach, to be broken up.

However, editor-in-chief Dan Howdle told IT Pro that mergers elsewhere were necessary for other mobile operators to compete with EE's leadership on 4G.

He said: "One thing is absolutely clear, EE is dominating the 4G market through a combination of those signed up directly to EE services and those receiving said services through MVNO partners such as Virgin Mobile.

"This should surprise no one since EE has by far the most comprehensive 4G coverage, and coverage really is the key to winning this war. O2 and Three know this well, which is why they intend to merge as soon practicality will allow. Until they do, expect EE to continue to dominate."