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Four seconds. That's the time it takes in Britain for a new mobile phone owner to be born. At the rate we're buying them, half the population could own a mobile phone as soon as the year 2001. But are we getting the best deals from the providers? Oftel, the phone regulatory body, thinks not. With the industry expanding so fast, Oftel says it will start to promote tougher competition and bring down prices. The watchdog will compel Vodafone and Cellnet, the two biggest players, to open their networks further to competitors. It will also investigate complaints that independent service providers get a worse deals when buying airtime that the two bigshot companies' own subsidiaries. Between them, Vodafone and Cellnet are estimated to have signed over 1.2 million new customers in Q2 this year. Vodafone has the lion's share accounting for 700,000 of the new clients. Orange and One2One also signed over 400,000 new contracts each. ®

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