Wireless phone marketer Virgin Mobile, the British cellphone network nominally controlled by high profile entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, said yesterday (Wednesday) it had signed its two-millionth customer during Q3 2002 – less than three years after launch, the fastest network growth recorded in the UK, Branson claims.

According to Sir Richard, Orange took four years to sign the same number, T-Mobile waited over five years, while O2 (formerly BT Cellnet) and Vodafone took over a decade.

But, curiously, the knight of hype seems to have forgotten that Virgin Mobile does not itself own a network – instead riding on the back of that operated by the former One2One, now T-Mobile.

So in reality Sir Richard’s success equates to selling around two million handsets plus connections to a rebadged network. Sales, he predicts, will grow to 2.25m by the year end, generating revenues in excess of £250 million ($392.52m; €397.11m).

But even if Virgin Mobile was not piggybacking on another network, its growth fails to compare like with like, according to a Vodafone spokesperson who observed with admirable mildness: “The mobile phone market today is somewhat different to the 1980s – the projections then were that we might eventually get one million subscribers.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times and BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff