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Demand for 3G phones is beginning to take off, Vodafone reported today, echoing claims by mobile phone retailer Phones4U that 2005 was "a 3G Christmas".

Publishing its latest trading update, Vodafone confirmed that it added a further 3.1m 3G punters in the last quarter, taking its total 3G user base to 8m.

In the UK, sales of 3G devices surged 66 per cent since September taking total numbers to 725,000.

Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin said: "Vodafone has delivered a good operational performance in a challenging environment. Sales of 3G devices accelerated in the Christmas quarter and we continue to see encouraging take-up of data services."

Overall, the mobile giant added 7.1m new punters during the last three months of 2005, taking its total customer base to 179.3m.

Vodafone continues to face stiff competition in the UK, adding just 561,000 new punters - less than rival O2, which announced yesterday it had notched up 895,000 punters over the same period.

Despite this, Vodafone continues to steam ahead with 16.3m UK users - up seven per cent on the previous year.

"Our major markets have seen increasing competitor activity, while our emerging market businesses have reported strong growth. We expect to deliver full year results in line with our existing guidance and our preliminary outlook for next year remains unchanged." ®

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