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Vodafone signed up more than 4.3 million new punters in the run-up to Christmas, taking its total customer base to more than 130 million users.

Recording its best quarter in three years for increased customer numbers, the world's biggest mobile operator said the figures were better than expected.

In Germany the company added 888,000 new customers in the three months to the end of December. In Italy, Vodafone attracted 507,000 new users. The 464,000 new punters who joined Vodafone in the UK was the highest level since March 2001.

Still in the UK, ARPU (average revenue per user) increased to £303 for the year to December 2003, up from £297 for the year to September 2003.

Yesterday, Virgin Mobile reported that it had signed up more than half a million new customers at the end of last year, making it the most successful three months ever for the mobile telco.

Boasting about its success Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson described it a "glittering result for Virgin Mobile".

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