United Kingdom - Mobile Infrastructure, Broadband, Operators - Statistics and Analyses

United Kingdom - Mobile Infrastructure, Broadband, Operators - Statistics and Analyses

The UK has one of the largest mobile markets in Europe, both in terms of revenue and in the number of subscribers. It is served by several major providers which also have a significant international presence. Recent merger activity has seen dramatic consolidation in the market which has also had knock-on effects for network infrastructure deals struck between operators. The merger of Orange and T-Mobile created EE as the largest operator in the country, and in January 2016 the unit was acquired by BT, which thereby returned to the mobile market after having left it some years before. By contrast, the bid by Hutchison to acquire O2 was rejected by the European Commission in May 2016 on the grounds that the deal would have reduced the number of MNOs to three, and so impacted on market competition.

The market has room for a growing number of low-cost MVNOs providing effective price and service competition for subscribers. The market has also been characterised by developments in advanced data services delivered over upgraded networks, the bundling of mobile as a quad-play service, and regulatory controls on charges and fees. Mobile penetration is above the EU average, and in common with developments in many other European markets subscriber growth has dipped in recent quarters as consumers respond to economic pressures and more generous pricing offers among operators which has negated some of the justifications for multiple SIM card ownership.

Auctions for spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands have made more bandwidth available for mobile broadband services, supported by regulatory moves which allow the refarming of 2G spectrum for 3G and 4G use. Spectrum will also be released in the 700MHz band, having been being allocated for 5G use. Operators have expanded the reach of 5G, having launched services progressively during 2019 with a number of key vendor partners.

This report surveys the UK's mobile market, providing an overview of mobile statistics, regulatory issues and technologies. It also profiles the major operators and MVNOs and looks ahead to mobile market developments in coming years.

Key developments

Government commits £500 million to help LTE network sharing plan;
Vodafone to switch off its 3G network by 2022;
Virgin Media switches MVNO deal to Vodafone;
Ofcom completes 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum auction;
O2 becomes the last of the MNOs to launch 5G services;
New rates for MNP imposed;
Report update includes the regulators market updates to June 2019, telcos financial and operating data to Q3 2019, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

H3, Vodafone, O2, Everything Everywhere (BT/EE, incorporating the former T-Mobile UK and Orange UK), Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile


  • Synopsis
  • Market analysis
    • Table Growth in mobile voice traffic – 2010 – 2018
    • Table Change in mobile retail revenue by service – 2013 – 2018
  • Mobile statistics
    • Table Change in the number of active mobile subscribers and penetration – 2009 – 2024
    • Table Change in the number of mobile connections by type – 2013 – 2018
    • Table Decline in mobile ARPU by contract, prepaid – 2006 – 2018
    • Table Change in average household spend of fixed-voice and mobile services – 2013 – 2018
    • Table Change in the number of prepaid and contract subscribers – 2010 – 2018
  • Mobile infrastructure
    • 5G
      • Government support
      • Operators
    • 4G (LTE)
      • Table Growth in the number of LTE subscribers – 2013 – 2018
      • O2
        • Table Growth in O2's LTE subscribers and penetration – 2014 – 2019
      • EE
      • Vodafone
      • H3
    • 3G
      • Network sharing
      • H3
      • O2
      • Vodafone
      • T-Mobile / Orange
      • EE
    • OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENTS
      • M2M networks
        • Table Growth in the number of M2M connections – 2010 – 2019
        • Table Growth in the number of O2's M2M accesses – 2014 – 2019
      • NB-IoT
  • Mobile voice
    • Table Development of outgoing mobile voice traffic – 2013 – 2018
  • Mobile data
    • Table Growth in average mobile data traffic per user– 2011 – 2018
    • Table Growth in contract/prepaid mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2018
    • SMS AND MMS
      • Table Decline in the volume of SMS and MMS messages sent – 2004 – 2019
      • Table Change in average SMS/MMS traffic per month by contract type – 2010 - 2018
    • MOBILE BROADBAND
      • Table Change in the number of dedicated mobile broadband subscribers – 2008 – 2019
      • Table Growth in the number of active mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 – 2024
  • Regulatory issues
    • SPECTRUM REGULATIONS
    • SPECTRUM REFARMING
    • SPECTRUM SHARING
    • SPECTRUM 2.6GHZ
    • SPECTRUM 800MHZ
    • SPECTRUM 900MHZ
    • SPECTRUM 700MHZ
    • SPECTRUM 1800MHZ
    • SPECTRUM 2.3GHZ AND 3.4GHZ
    • REVISED LICENCE CONDITIONS
    • OTHER SPECTRUM AUCTIONS
    • MULTI-SPECTRUM AUCTION – 2020
    • ROAMING
    • MOBILE NUMBER PORTABILITY (MNP)
    • MOBILE TERMINATION RATES (MTRS)
      • Table MTRs by operator (pence per minute) –2015 – 2018
      • Table Mobile interconnection traffic – 2007 – 2018
  • Major mobile operators
    • HUTCHISON 3
      • Table Growth in the number of H3's registered subscribers by sector – 2008 – 2019
      • Table Growth in the number of H3's active subscribers by sector – 2014 – 2019
      • Table Development of H3's financial data – 2008 – 2019
      • Table Decline in H3's annualised gross ARPU – 2009 – 2019
    • O2
      • Table Development of O2's financial data –2007 – 2019
      • Table Development of O2's quarterly financial data –2013 – 2019
      • Table Change in O2's mobile ARPU – 2006 - 2019
      • Table O2 proportion of data to service revenue – 2006 – 2019
      • Table Growth in the number of O2's mobile subscribers by type – 2005 – 2019
      • Proposed sale to BT
      • Proposed sale to H3
    • VODAFONE
      • Table Development of Vodafone's mobile ARPU (blended, contract, prepaid) –2005 – 2019
      • Table Vodafone (UK) subscribers and proportion prepaid – 2009 - 2019
      • Table Vodafone (UK) financial data – 2008 – 2020
      • Table Vodafone customer churn – 2007 – 2019
      • Table Vodafone Group revenue by sector – 2007 – 2020
      • Table Vodafone UK service revenue by sector – 2009 – 2020
      • Table Vodafone mobile customer retention cost – 2007 – 2020
      • Table Growth in Vodafone's mobile data traffic – 2013 – 2019
      • Project Spring
      • Sales and acquisitions
    • EE
      • Table Development of EE's mobile revenue (new format under BT) –2017 – 2020
      • Table EE quarterly consumer mobile revenue (new format under BT) –2016 – 2020
      • Table Decline in EE's ARPU – 2009 – 2019
      • Sale to BT
    • MOBILE VIRTUAL NETWORK OPERATORS (MVNOS)
      • Table Change in the number of Virgin Mobile's mobile subscribers – 2015 – 2019
      • Table Development of Virgin Mobile's revenue – 2007 – 2019
      • Mobile Virtual Network Enablers (MVNEs)
  • Mobile content and applications
    • MOBILE APPLICATIONS
    • M-PAYMENT MNO COLLABORATION
    • CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS
    • M-TICKETING
    • M-BANKING
    • M-HEALTH
  • Appendix – Historic data
    • Table Historic - Mobile subscribers and SIM penetration rate – 1995; 1997; 1999 – 2009
    • Table Mobile retail revenue by service – 2002 – 2018
    • Table Historic - Virgin Mobile subscribers – 2005 – 2014
    • Table Average 3G and 4G speeds (Mb/s) –2014 – 2015
    • Table Historic - Broadband take-up by technology – 2007 – 2016
    • Table Historic - Average household spend of fixed-voice, mobile and internet services – 2008 – 2016
    • Table Historic - Prepaid and contract subscribers – 2002 – 2009
    • Table Historic - Mobile market share by operator – 2004 – 2016
    • Table Historic – EE's LTE subscribers – 2013 – 2015
    • Table Historic - SMS and MMS revenue – 2015 – 2017
    • Table Historic - EE subscriber data – 2009 – 2018
  • Related reports

Download our eBook: How to Succeed Using Market Research

Learn how to effectively navigate the market research process to help guide your organization on the journey to success.

Download eBook