Analysts warned this week that Three must plan for the rapid growth in its customers’ data usage or face capacity issues.
The network operator has flagged up a dramatic shift in its contract customers’ data usage, which has more than doubled since last year.
Three said this week its four million contract customers’ average monthly data use had shot up from 450MB last summer to 1.1GB this summer.
Usage is higher among Three customers with iPhones and premium Android smartphones, which are currently running at almost 1.5GB per month.
Three CEO Dave Dyson (pictured) welcomed the growth. He said: ‘With 95% of our smartphone customers using data on a daily basis, everyone is relying more than ever on their handset to do all the stuff they used to do on the internet at home or work. And there is no sign of this slowing down.’
He said the behavioural shift had been largely triggered by Three’s ‘all-you-can-eat’ data tariffs, which start from as little as £13 per month.
‘We are seeing more and more people using more and more data throughout the day. Price plans that remove the fear of going over a data limit enable demand to grow as consumers are free to discover just how much they can do on the move.
‘Even I don’t understand how much data I use on a daily basis so it’s no surprise that having an all-you-can-eat worry-free data package is proving to be so popular with our customers.’
Three chief operating officer Graham Baxter, who oversees Three’s network, said: ‘Since 2008 we have invested over £1bn in almost doubling the size of our network and boosting its capacity and quality in order to handle this data traffic explosion.’
CCS Insight MD Shaun Collins said: ‘It is to Three’s credit that it has centred on data as its key focus over the past few years, unlike other operators, and is reaping the benefits of that.’ However, he warned: ‘There comes a point where this rate of success could lead to congestion, so Three must have a plan for this growth.
IDC telecoms analyst John Delany said: ‘Three can only sustain that growth if there is headroom in the network. Aside from tweaking, it will eventually need extra spectrum. However, the LTE roll out won't happen until the end of next year at the earliest.’