Telefonica announced plans to deploy new 4G spectrum across 1,000 UK sites by the end of the year, as it posted a decline in revenue and lowered net debt during the opening quarter of 2018.

Revenue of €12.2 billion was down 7.2 per cent year-on-year, but it managed to reduce net debt 9.8 per cent to €44 million, “the first reduction in a first quarter in the last four years”, it said in a statement.

“The results of the quarter show the efficiency in the allocation of resources and a strengthened balance, thanks to the reduction of debt,” the operator stated.

Profit attributable to equity holders of the parent was up by 7.4 per cent year-on-year to €837 million.

“In the first quarter we advanced further in the execution of our strategic priorities set out for 2018…in connectivity we continued to grow our value accesses at a significant pace, which translated into higher average revenue and greater customer loyalty, associated with a continuously increasing demand for data and personalised offers,” executive chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete (pictured) said.

“We further strengthened our positioning as a platform company by taking a step forward in our digital transformation, leveraging on digitalisation and data monetisation, and continue leading in innovation with the launch of Aura in six countries,” he added.

The operator stated LTE network coverage expanded to 73 per cent in the quarter, up by 9 percentage points year-on-year. It now stands at 92 per cent in Europe and 66 per cent in Latin America. LTE traffic doubled compared with Q1 2017 and now represents 61 per cent of total traffic.

Telefonica’s commitment to deploy fresh 4G spectrum in the country follows the purchase of an additional 40MHz of 2.3GHz spectrum in an auction concluded earlier this month.

The operator will have switched on 600 sites across the country to transmit the new spectrum by the end of April, including in the cities of London, Leeds and Nottingham.

In Brazil, where Telefonica recorded a 1 per cent increase in revenue to €2.7 million in Q1, the country’s telecoms watchdog Anatel voted against allowing the operator to swap $861 million in regulatory fines for new investments.

Reuters reported Telefonica lamented the decision and said it would continue investing in upgrades.