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Mobile phone boom expected for festive season

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Santa will deliver four million mobile phones to the UK this Christmas, piling pressure on vendors not to repeat last year's stock shortages. Sales are expected to rise 60 per cent on last year's fourth quarter, which saw BT Cellnet run out of handsets in the pre-Christmas rush. Vodafone AirTouch also admitted that it "struggled" to keep up with demand over last year's festive period. Pay-as-you-go phone packages are expected to remain the main driver behind booming sales. Pre-paid phones currently account for 40 per cent of the UK market, and half of the British population is expected to have some form of mobile phone within two years. According to Bloomberg, the UK's four mobile phone companies will be offering cheaper calls and other incentives to prepaid customers this quarter. This is expected to swell their coffers by an extra £1 billion over the next year. Last month saw a worried UK phone regulator, Dave Edmonds, director general of Oftel, asking to see companies' plans for handling the anticipated pre-Christmas boom. Vodafone, BT Cellnet, Orange and One2One claim there will be no repeat of last year's handset shortages, saying they have taken steps to ready themselves. Vodafone has invested £20 million in customer services in 1999, and Orange and One2One have opened new call centres. ®

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