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Mobile communications in the United Kingdom (UK) - statistics & facts

With a penetration rate of around 98 percent in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2022, mobile communication is a well-established method for Britons to keep in touch, more popular than fixed communication through wire or cable connections. The gap between the mobile and fixed-line call volumes has been increasing since 2009, with the number of mobile phone minutes more than four and a half times higher than that of fixed-line telephone minutes in 2022.

Mobile market experiences an overall revenue decline

Despite the number of active mobile subscribers in the UK growing for over a decade, the revenue generated within the mobile communications sector has continued to fall in recent years, dropping to 12.3 billion British pounds in 2021. The volume of SMS and MMS messages sent over mobile networks in the UK have also significantly fallen, coinciding with a surge in the popularity of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. The average revenue per user (ARPU) data both for pre-paid and post-paid services also reflect these downward trends, with users in the UK apparently paying less for mobile telephony.

Mobile communication services are largely provided by a handful of telecommunication companies in the UK, with the four companies Virgin Media O2, BT Group including its subsidiary EE, Vodafone, and Three/3 UK leading the market. EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three were the most popular mobile network providers in the UK in 2022, while Sky also ranked high among these companies in terms of brand value.

Increasing importance of data consumption and 5G

Despite the mobile data revenue in the UK decreasing along with the sector’s overall revenue, data makes up an increasingly important part of the UK's mobile communication landscape. Mobile data traffic has skyrocketed from nine million gigabytes of data transferred across mobile networks in the UK to over 571 million gigabytes from 2011 to 2021.

Fifth generation or 5G mobile network technology was first rolled out in 2019 in the UK by EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, which continue to dominate the most common 5G auctions such as the 700 MHz and 3.6 GHz spectrums. While still playing a small role in absolute terms of mobile connections compared to 4G, 5G has a high growth rate, with the share of 5G-capable smartphones expected to reach 93 percent by 2025.

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