UK mobile phone users hits 40 million

What mobile health scares? Growth in the mobile sector suggest people are not concerned with health warnings

Record sales in the run-up to Christmas means that over two thirds of the UK population own a mobile phone, according to results released Thursday.

These figures confirm predictions made in December that Q4 of 2000 would be a bumper year for mobile phone sales.

Analysts believe a total of 5 million mobiles were bought in the UK between October and December 2000. Four and a half million were purchased in the run up to Christmas pushing the number of mobile users in Britain to 40 million, around two thirds of the population.

The world's biggest mobile network operator, Vodafone, picked up 1.42m UK users -- giving it a total of 11.6m. It maintains its position as the dominant UK network operator. Orange, ranked as the third largest operator in Britain, increased its total number of subscribers by just over 1.5 million.

Analysts expect that BT Cellnet, which isn't expected to release figures for another week, also attracted at least 1 million new users in Q4 2000.

BT Cellnet admitted Thursday that it had been caught out by the scale of customer demand for mobiles. Hundreds of thousands of consumers were unable to operate their new BT Cellnet phones over the festive period because the network could not cope with demand.

Growth in the sector does not seem to have been affected by myriad warnings over the potential dangers of using mobiles. Last November the UK government followed the advice of an independent enquiry and warned that children should only use mobile phones for emergency calls.

Some experts went further: writing in The Lancet, scientist Dr Gerard Hyland warned that mobile phones exert subtle non-thermal influences on living organisms, which could also affect a number of brain functions. He believes that children would be at the greatest risk of health damage.

Despite these concerns, it looks like mobile phone sales will continue to boom in the years ahead. Latest forecasts from consultancy firm Ovum suggest the number of mobile connections in western Europe will pass 401 million within the next five years, compared with 242 million today.

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