Cellnet, the UK?s second largest mobile telephone operator, signed significantly fewer subscribers than its rivals in the last quarter as the top four companies unveiled their figures. Cellnet attracted only 12,000 subscribers between January and March -- a 85 per cent drop compared to the first quarter of 1996. It blamed new contract terms which reduces notice periods from three months to one -- a policy it, along with other companies, were forced to introduce after intervention by the Office of Fair Trading. It also tightened its credit control activities which led to 70,000 disconnections in the quarter. Despite this Cellnet?s customer base increased by 13 per cent over the year to 2.7 million. Cellnet has been through a troubled few weeks. Early last month managing director Howard Ford, one-time IBM head of PCs in Europe, shocked the industry with his abrupt departure. His resignation was later linked to a faltering #100 million billing and administration project. Weeks later Ford was replaced by BT?s director of carrier services Ray Smith. Orange streaked ahead of its competitors in attracting the highest number of net new subscribers in the first quarter of this year. Orange, the UK?s newest mobile telephone operator signed 109,000 new customers and beat the UK?s number one which attracted an extra 67,000 subscribers. However One 2 One said it achieved its highest level of gross sales and claimed to have signed 25 per cent of the UK?s total number of new subscribers between January and March with 75,000 net new customers. Orange subscriber base now stands at 894,000, compared to 785,000 at the end of last year. Churn, the rate of customers failing to renew their subscriptions remained in line with expectations at 19.1 per cent, said Orange.
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