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More than half of Brits now own a mobile phone, with one handset sold every two seconds.

Figures due to be released this week from the four major phone operators are expected to show that 52 per cent of the population - 30 million people - have a mobile. And ownership is likely to top 60 per cent by the end of the year.

Sales are tipped to reach between 3.1 million and 3.4 million for the three months ended June 30 - the great majority on pre-paid contracts, Reuters reported. That's 38,500 per day - 85 per cent higher than the same period last year.

According to Orange, it signed a record 1.2 million new customers between April and June, compared to the previous year's sales of 431,000 for the quarter. It now has 7.2 million customers.

Its three rival operators are due to publish their second-quarter results later this week - as of March 30, Orange was the third largest of the four. Analysts expect Vodafone and BT Cellnet to have attracted 600,000 and 500,000 new subscribers respectively for the period, while One2One is tipped to show the biggest growth with around a million new customers.

In related news, Home Secretary Jack Straw has warned of the growing number of kids getting robbed for their mobile phones.

The total number of thefts in London and other major cities jumped 36 per cent in the last year - and a major factor in this rise was mass mobile phone ownership, Tony Blair's right-hand man declared.

A third of robberies in certain areas of London are now mobile phone thefts - with many offences committed by schoolkids against their peers. Talks with mobile phone companies were said to be underway to try and improve phone security. ®

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