My first year as Three UK CEO
It’s hard to believe it has been one year since I became the CEO of Three UK – and what a year it has been.
It’s safe to say the pandemic has underlined just how important telco networks are to the UK. They have allowed family, friends and colleagues to stay in touch during the toughest of times.
Never has our priority of providing better connectivity every day, for every customer been more relevant and important. That is why everything we do is about working towards that goal.
Looking back on the past year, I wanted to share some thoughts on our vision and priorities as we embark on the path out of the pandemic and the future opportunities ahead.
Keeping our customers connected through COVID-19
At the beginning of the pandemic, we noticed that demands on the network were changing; geographic usage patterns shifted from urban areas to suburban and rural areas.
To cope with this, we were laser focused on ensuring the quality of our network was up to scratch. We also recognised the role we played in connecting people – this was the driver behind our decision to support the Government by zero-rating key services and offering additional support to affected customers.
But there is always more to do, and we are continuing to invest heavily in our network.
We’re building on progress already made with our 5G network, with Ericsson carrying out the roll out. I’m delighted to say that 5G is now live in 193 locations with 1,250 sites. This is up from 1,000 sites at the end of last year with hundreds more sites expected to come online before the end of 2021. We are seeing average 5G speeds in excess of 200Mbps, according to Ookla, and peak speeds of over 1Gbps.
This month we were delighted to have won 10MHz blocks of low frequency spectrum at the Ofcom auction. That triples the amount of low frequency spectrum we own and will have a transformative impact on the experience for our customers both indoors and in rural areas.
Coupled with our existing low frequency spectrum and the UK’s largest 5G spectrum holding, we are in a fantastic position to deliver a great network experience for our customers now and in the future.
The Big Network Build across the country is also well underway and will increase 4G speeds by up to 150% as well as delivering 5G. In addition, we’re delivering the final phase of our IT transformation programme which will create a seamless and flexible customer experience.
Extending our coverage in all of the UK’s nations through the Shared Rural Network is another key priority.
Growing the business
Since I started at Three UK, a further focus area has been on broadening our appeal and expanding our base into new areas, and this is going to be a big part of the strategy as we emerge from the pandemic.
We’ve leveraged our Chelsea and Gogglebox sponsorships to drive visibility. We worked with the club on its most successful ever kit launch with a partner, growing sponsorship awareness quickly. Meanwhile, our two-year, multi-million-pound partnership with Gogglebox sees Three sponsoring the new series of the show, as well as all repeats.
As part of our focus on our Business offer, Three Means Business is getting a revamp to better serve the growing number of freelancers and SMEs. This area will play a significant role in our future growth plans, and we’re pleased to have Mike Tomlinson, MD of Business, leading the charge on that.
Last month, we announced that we’ll be extending our partnership with iD Mobile. The strengthened partnership means that consumers will be able to get stronger connections, including an upgrade to 5G networks, and more flexible data offerings.
Finally, we are pushing out our home broadband offering across the UK. We’ve seen good momentum already: with many people working from home due to coronavirus, we saw a 16% increase year to date versus 2019.
Our Full Year financial results showed encouraging signs of growth. While 2020 was a year dictated by Covid-19, we actually saw our underlying EBITDA increase by 3% for the year. I am really pleased with our H2 performance which showed a 28% growth in underlying EBITDA and 3% growth in revenues. We have also seen an impressive boost to our contract net adds in H2, with a 71% increase for Q4 YOY and 72% increase for H2 YOY.
Our future is bright
I took on this role just as the first nationwide lockdown was introduced. I’m proud of how Three has performed in this past year and I’m looking ahead with a real sense of optimism. Like many businesses, we have faced obstacles, but the team has pulled together and we’ve been able to navigate the challenging circumstances.
The Three team is looking forward to continuing all of this work from our new office in Reading. When it opens in Q3, the space at Green Park business centre will act as a hub for our staff to use in combination with home working.
As for our stores, we’re making plans to reopen as soon as restrictions allow. In the meantime, we have Three customers covered through Three Store Now which connects our online customers live to store advisors.
No matter when we come out of lockdown, I’m confident that together, we will continue to work towards our goal of providing better connectivity every day, for every customer.