The CEO of 3 UK reiterated a call for a consolidation of the market, again describing it as dysfunctional and requiring a structural change to improve the overall quality of infrastructure.

In the CK Hutchison-owned operator’s results presentation for 2021, Robert Finnegan (pictured) nevertheless hailed 3’s performance, highlighting new areas of business including lower-cost mobile services under the Smarty brand, B2B and home broadband services.

Finnegan cited “our strongest customer contract growth since 2012”. However, prepaid customer figures have continued to decline, meaning the total mobile client base was unchanged from the previous year.

The operator stated total post-paid customers increased 7 per cent year-on-year to 8 million in 2021.

Revenue increased 4 per cent to £2.4 billion ($3.2 billion). The operator is currently in the middle of a five-year strategy to expand its 5G network and implement a comprehensive IT upgrade. As a consequence, capex remains at a high level, reaching £784 million in 2021.

3 stated its 5G network now covers around a third of the UK population, with more than 2,500 live sites. CK Hutchison is also in the process of selling 6,000 passive telecom infrastructure sites in the country, after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved a deal with Spanish tower company Cellnex.

The Hong Kong-based group will receive a total of €3.7 billion ($4.1 billion for the UK assets. The sale completes a series of agreements announced in November 2020 for Cellnex to acquire CK Hutchison’s approximately 24,600 sites in six European countries: Austria, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and the UK.

Italy figures fall
The UK is one of the biggest telecoms markets for CK Hutchison, although the highly competitive market of Italy is the largest in terms of both customers and revenue.

In 2021, WindTre reported total active customers of just over 19 million by the end of the year, down 3 per cent compared. Revenue was 10 per cent lower at €4.2 billion.