For the past four and a half years, we’ve been tracking the popularity of UK mobile networks and how consumers are switching between them.

UKThe UK has one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world for mobile telephony. There are more than 83 million active mobile subscriptions for a population of only 64 million. Given this, many customers taking out a new mobile phone plan will be switching their service over from another network.

At present, there are 4 network operators in the UK: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. There are also more than 20 virtual network operators (MVNOs) that use one of the big four networks as a coverage provider. Current MVNOs include BT Mobile, giffgaff, iD Mobile, TalkTalk, Tesco and Virgin. MVNOs target a wide range of verticals including ethical, low-cost, international, supermarket and quad-play providers.

When switching from one mobile network to another, many consumers choose to keep their existing phone number. The UK has offered mobile number portability (MNP) since the 4th January 1999. To transfer an existing phone number from one network to another, customers need to obtain a PAC Code from their old network. The PAC Code is then provided to their new network operator.

Here, at Ken’s Tech Tips, we provide an online tool which can help consumers to get a PAC Code from their old network. We’ve been operating the PAC Code Finder tool since October 2010 with an average of 4,000 people using the tool every month. By monitoring usage of the tool, we can track in great detail how British consumers are moving between different mobile networks in response to different product offerings.

Overall Trends

The following chart shows the net number of customers joining each mobile network on a month-by-month basis.

To obtain these measurements, we first normalise the number of monthly responses down to 1,000. This removes the monthly fluctuation in the number of responses. We then apply the following formula:

Net change in number of customers = number of new customers gained – number of existing customers lost

A positive figure means the network is gaining customers faster than they’re losing them. This means an overall increase in the number of customers. A negative figure means the network is gaining customers at a slower rate than at which they’re losing existing customers. This means an overall reduction in the number of customers.

Show in number of customers for

Using the drop down menu above, you can adjust the chart so as to only show the number of customers joining or leaving each network. You can also view information for different groups of networks (e.g. MVNOs on a certain network operator, supermarket MVNOs and quad-play MVNOs).

Trends By Individual Network

One advantage of our dataset is we’re able to break it down on a network-by-network basis.

Network Performance Over Time

The following graph shows a month-by-month trend in the popularity of individual networks. Start by choosing a mobile network from the drop down menu above the chart.

  • Customers Gained (blue): The number of customers joining the network on a month-by-month basis.
  • Customers Lost (red): The number of customers leaving the network on a month-by-month basis.
  • Net Change in Customers (orange): Calculated by subtracting the customers lost from the customers gained on a month-by-month basis.

Show the performance over time for

As before, our measurements have been normalised to remove monthly fluctuations in the total number of responses.

Original & Destination Networks For Migrating Customers

We’re also able to study the exact path of customers between networks. This is because we know both the customer’s original mobile network as well as the network they’re moving to.

In the following pie chart, we show the destination mobile network for customers who are leaving a given mobile network. The data is split up on a year-by-year basis: you can use the slider underneath the pie chart to see how the destination networks have changed over time.

Show the for customers who leave

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If you’d like to see the data in reverse (the originating network from which customers join another network), you can change this option through the drop down menu situated above the pie chart.

Net Customer Migration From Other Networks

In the following graph, we visualise the net number of customers migrating to a given mobile network from all other networks. A positive number is good news for the given network: it means, overall, customers are joining from the other network. A negative number means, overall, customers are leaving the given network to join the other network.

Show the net customer migration to from other networks

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About Our Data

In the UK, when customers change from one mobile network to another, they need a PAC Code to keep their existing phone number. The PAC Code is obtained from the customer’s current network. It must then be provided to the new mobile network within a 30-day period.

At Ken’s Tech Tips, we’ve been offering an online PAC Code Finder tool since October 2010. It helps our readers with obtaining and using a PAC Code. Since the launch of our PAC Code Finder, we’ve consistently asked users to provide two pieces of information: their current mobile network and the network they’re joining. On average, about 4,000 people provide us with this information every month (more than 200,000 people since the launch of the tool).

In the charts and tables above, we provide a breakdown of user responses to the PAC Code Finder tool. By analysing user responses and how they’ve changed over time, we hope to gain some insight on how British consumers are moving between networks. We’re also hoping to understand how consumers are responding to product offerings from each network.

For more information about anything on this page, please contact me by e-mail.

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