The latest research from Gartner Group flatly contradicts the mobile phone industry's claim last week that there are now 43 million active adult phone users in the UK – 90% of all Britons.

Gartner, which polled a sample of 4,000 during December, said its study revealed that only 63% of the population uses a mobile phone. This supports anecdotal evidence from The Carphone Warehouse, Europe’s largest retailer of mobiles.

Carphone's chairman and chief executive Charles Dunstone believes that the ‘official’ industry figures take no account of the number of customers buying replacement phones. And as the majority of new handsets are these days sold on a ‘pay as you go’ basis rather than a subscription, the networks can only guesstimate the number of actual users by omitting handsets not used within a certain time-frame – a yardstick on which there is no agreed industry norm.

Comments the report: “The huge growth in pre-pay mobile phone sales . . . has presented the mobile operators with a problem. They no longer know who their customers are, or even how many customers they have.”

Gartner's figure are cold comfort to the industry, suggesting as they do, that around 25% of apparent users are either inactive or lapsed. By the same token, the data is manna from heaven to phone retailers like Dunstone, whose investors will be relieved to learn that the market is not yet at saturation point.

News source: Financial Times