Three UK's ‘all you can eat’ data campaign helped push up customer numbers by 18% to over 8.2 million in 2011.
Parent company Hutchison Whampoa’s annual results, out today, also reveal a 14% leap in revenues to £1,787m in 2011 with the operator delivering a full-year profit for the first time of £30m.
The operator reported a stable bottom line despite substantial investment in growth last year, with EBITA remaining positive at £30m.
The results showed an increasing shift from prepaid to postpaid. While the number of prepaid customers rose from 3.3 million to 3.6 million between 28 March 2011 and 28 March 2012, postpaid customers rose from 3.8 million to 4.6 million in the same period.
ARPU fell from £8.45 to £8.05 over the 12 months to March 2012 while ARPU for postpaid customers also fell from £29.36 to £28.6.
Analysts said the results showed a good performance in a tough year.
Strategy Analytics' telecoms analyst Phil Kendall said: 'Three's results compare well to its competitors. The fact it has grown its customer base by 18% and kept ARPU falls to 3% is encouraging, particularly when you compare that to O2, where ARPU fell 8% and revenues fell 2% last year.
'Its postpaid growth is also encouraging. Obviously the One Plan and unlimited data offerings is resonating well with consumers and holding up Three's revenues.'
Three’s push for growth has seen a ‘growing quality of customer base,’ the company said today, pointing to an increase number of awards for network performance, smartphone, mobile broadband, tablet and retail experience, as evidence of its growing status in the UK market.
Three UK CEO David Dyson said: ‘We’ve started the year with real momentum and our 18% growth in customer numbers in 2011 is a great achievement. Our network performance continues to attract awards and customer loyalty is at its highest level yet. Consumer demand for mobile data has exploded and smartphones now make up over 99% of our handset sales.This combined with our ‘all you can eat’ data offers means we are well placed to continue our growth trajectory.’
Three CFO Richard Woodward added: ‘Rapid growth in subscribers, driven by contract smartphone customers, has been matched by EBITDA growth of 16%. We’ve maintained our profitable position throughout the year. Our market leading network economics and our focus on direct distribution provide the foundations for sustained profitable growth.’