3 notches up three million users and more coverage

While ARPU goes down

While ARPU goes down

Mobile operator 3 has seen its subscriber numbers jump almost tenfold in the last year but its average revenue per user (ARPU) has taken a tumble.

The Hutchison Whampoa mobile firm announced its subscribers now number some three million - up from 361,000 back in March 2004. Its parent, which has operations in Italy, Austria, Australia and Scandinavia, saw around 1.7 million new subscribers added across its networks.

While 3's yearly ARPU was above that of other operators - £483 compared to Vodafone's £314 and O2's £282 - the figure has fallen over recent months. UK monthly ARPU fell from £43.22 in August last year to an average of £40.33 for the year up to March.

A 3 spokeswoman attributed the drop in ARPU to rise in the number of pre-pay customers on 3's network, which she described as "a healthy mix". Contract customers now make up 55 per cent of the operator's customers.

The amount of non-voice revenue also rose for 3's UK network, now at 20 per cent. 3's spokeswoman said that while customers join the network with the aim of saving money, they will often spend considerably more by trying video and data services.

Music in particular has been one of 3's biggest download sellers - it recently announced it had shifted 10 million in six months.

The network, which broke the 3G coverage obligation set as part of third generation licence conditions, has also boosted its coverage slightly - it now stands at 82 per cent by population.