O2 MVNO Giffgaff is planning a soft launch of its handset proposition in time for Christmas with a formal launch set for early next year.
The handset proposition will range smartphones from leading manufacturers, including Samsung, Nokia and HTC and could include iPhones and tablets from next year.
Speaking to Mobile, Giffgaff CEO Mike Fairman said: ‘We are still in the early stages and are planning a soft launch before Christmas.’
He added that the handset proposition will include ‘a range of around 23 handsets with all the main manufacturers in there.’
Asked if that included the iPhone, he said the company was ‘tidying up the legals’ with Apple, adding: ‘We will definitely be having a form of iPhone in there.’
The portfolio will focus on smartphones with only a few feature phones and could include some ‘Grade A refurbished smartphones,’ Fairman added.
Recently published annual results show Giffgaff is experiencing rapid growth. According to a filing at Companies House, the MVNO more than doubled customer numbers in the year to the end of 2012, with new customer additions up from 224,954 in 2011 to 532,029 in 2012. Company revenue also soared in the same period, almost quadrupling from £19.8m to £78.9m. The company’s operating losses also improved from £38m to £32.7m.
Fairman attributed the rapid growth rate to ‘word of mouth’, as well as online and TV marketing activity. He said Giffgaff members, who range from 16-35 years old, continued to play a key role in marketing the MVNO by recommending it to others. User recommendations earn them points in the form of airtime credit or charity donations.
The company has also been on a recruitment drive as the company continues to grow, which has seen staff numbers double to 80 over the past 18 months.
Many of the new recruits are in Giffgaff’s operations team, which is overseeing a £9m network upgrade which Fairman said is close to completion. Fairman said despite recent outages, caused partly by the upgrade, network performance ‘is significantly better’ than last year and would continue to improve once the upgrade is completed.
He said: ‘We have been completely upgrading the network and we have one last major component to do which will be completed in the next month or so.’ He added the most recent outage was caused by ‘one piece of kit that had not been upgraded.'