Mobile operators gear up for boom

Mobile phone operators are expecting record sales this Christmas of up to 5 million phones, double those of last year.

One 2 One predicts that between 4 million and 5 million mobile phones will be sold over the period and believes 40 per cent of the population will have a mobile by March 2000. Rival operator Orange believes penetration will reach 35 per cent by the year end. Penetration currently stands at 29 per cent.

Last year, pre-pay phone packages and supermarket offers fuelled sales in the quarter to December, with 2.5 million mobile phone connections being made – three times more than for the same period in 1997.

But the upsurge in demand caused distribution and customer service problems. Retailer JWE Telecom issued a profit warning in January, blaming inadequate supply and reduced margins on pre-pay phones.

This year, the operators are better prepared and are boosting distribution and customer services.

Vodafone has appointed Unipart’s demand chain manage ment division to handle its distribution, warehousing and logistics services.

The company has opened a new call centre for its pre-pay package, Pay As You Talk.

Orange and One 2 One have both created 2,000 new call centre jobs this year.

The pre-Christmas launch of Virgin Mobile will extend availability of phones through Virgin’s 220 Our Price stores and 85 Virgin Megastores.

see “Cover Story”

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