David Dyson, the chief executive of Three UK, said he is focused on building the brand as he expanded on the operator’s recent performance at a briefing on Tuesday.
The CEO set out four key areas he thinks the country’s fourth largest operator is differentiating on, including a new insurance product called Three Rescue, which is designed to “restore a customer’s mobile life in 24 hours”.
Despite a very low-key launch last December, one of those differentiators is 4G LTE. Unlike its rivals, Three offers the next gen tech for free and Dyson pointed to the fact that every one of his 1.9 million customers with a 4G LTE device has a 4G LTE SIM.
This equates to nearly a quarter of Three’s total eight million subscriber base although comparisons with market leader EE, which claims over two million subscribers, are difficult given the Orange T-Mobile joint venture charges a premium.
Nevertheless, Dyson said the company is targeting 3.2 million people using its 4G LTE service by the end of this year as it looks to cover 50 cities and 200 towns in the same timeframe.
Earlier this month, Three’s network performed well in tests carried out by RootMetrics finishing second overall behind EE.
However, Dyson said that while he was grateful for the “technical endorsement” provided by RootMetrics survey, he said he was more focused on YouGov studies which provided a more customer experience-focused view. His preference is no doubt explained by the fact that Three came first in a number of YouGov categories.
Another key differentiator is Three’s “Feel at Home” roaming initiative, according to the CEO. The service, which allows customers to use their data, text and voice allowances when abroad in certain countries, will be expanded. Dyson did not say where exactly, but hinted that France and Spain are two key markets it is looking at.
The reason is clear. According to Three’s own figures, usage on Feel at Home has risen from 7MB per subscriber in August 2013 to 264MB in February this year.
Further, Dyson said nearly a third (30 percent) of new and/or returning customers said Feel at Home was “very” or “extremely important” in choosing to come to Three.
Three’s move to make calls to UK 0800 numbers – which are free to call from a landline but are charged at a premium rate by mobile operators – free to its subscribers, was the final differentiator the CEO focused on.
According to research by YouGov, 0800, 0845 and 0870 calls cost UK mobile consumers £600 million a year, while three quarters of people surveyed have no idea how much their operator charges them for an 0800 call. Three said it would still charge customers calling 084 and 087 numbers 5p per minute.
The operator is hoping all four differentiators will improve customer loyalty and tempt more people to join. Last year, Three UK’s subscriber base grew by 565,000 while revenues grew five percent to €2.4 billion.
But the CEO is not overly worried about a new rival on the horizon after BT confirmed it is launching an MVNO on EE’s network. While the news doesn’t “dramatically” change the market, Dyson said BT could potentially be a disruptive force.
“Wi-Fi is potentially a differentiator for them as they will offload as much traffic as they can and they have some good assets with the ability to cross sell them. However, they don’t have a distribution footprint on the high street,” he told European Communications.