April 23 (Bloomberg) -- EE, the U.K. joint venture owned by Deutsche Telekom AG and France Telecom SA, said it has signed up almost 400,000 fourth-generation mobile customers in its first six months.
The U.K.’s largest mobile-phone service provider registered 318,000 4G customers through the end of March, London-based EE said in a statement. The company, which has 26 million total subscribes, has said it expects to reach 1 million customers for its faster network by the end of the year.
EE is the first British company to be able to provide 4G service, which makes file and video downloads faster and can carry heavier traffic loads. Vodafone Group Plc and Telefonica SA’s O2 will join in with their own offers later this year following a government auction of 4G spectrum that raised 2.34 billion pounds ($3.57 billion) from the industry.
“In the next couple of days we will even pass the 400,000 mark, so we have strong uptake,” Chief Executive Officer Olaf Swantee said on a conference call. “It’s not only consumers. It’s really Britain’s businesses that are waking up to the benefits of 4G.”
Carriers in Europe are counting on faster speeds and better service from 4G upgrades to boost how much customers are willing to pay for mobile service after years of heavy competition drove service revenues down. EE is spending 1.5 billion pounds over the next three years to develop its network and plans to cover 98 percent of the U.K. by 2014.
EE declined to provide average customer bills for the 4G service. Customers across the business paid an average of 18.20 pounds per month, up from 17.80 pounds a year earlier, excluding the effect of regulatory costs.
Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom’s merger of their T-Mobile and Orange British operations to form EE was authorized in 2010. The parent companies, which are examining their strategies amid a slowdown in Europe’s economies, have said they’ve considered selling shares in EE as soon as the fourth quarter. The British company has also attracted interest from private-equity firms, France Telecom has said.
Swantee said today that the parent companies haven’t provided an update on their plans for the business.
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