Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by One2One


  One 2 One, the UK mobile communications network, functions at the heart of the British mobile market, one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy and one which it is estimated contributed £5.3 billion and over 160,000 jobs to the UK economy in 1999.

  Mobile phones have become an essential component of the British social fabric. The growth in mobile phone ownership has outstripped even the most optimistic industry expectations from a few years ago, with the latest figures showing that 71 per cent of British households use a mobile phone. There is also a growing group of people who shun the use of fixed telephony in favour of mobiles; 5 per cent of all UK homes only have a mobile phone. The popularity of mobile telephony in Britain reached new heights in the run-up to Christmas 2000, with One 2 One alone selling 1.2 million phones in the final quarter of that year.

  In addition to convenience, mobility and economic and social advantages of mobile communications, the benefits in terms of providing emergency contact and promoting personal safety should not be overlooked.


  Since its launch in September 1993, One 2 One has grown rapidly in terms of turnover, customer base, market share and employee numbers. The company's turnover reached £1.8 billion in 2000, representing an increase of 64 per cent on the previous year.

  The One 2 One customer base, which had stood at 4.157 million in January 2000, doubled during the course of the year to over 8.3 million. Alongside the rise in the customer base was an expansion in One 2 One's market share, from 14.8 per cent in December 1998 to 20.8 per cent in December 2000.

  In order to provide excellent service to its fast-growing number of customers, One 2 One invests £3 million every week in improving its customer service operations. Through its contact centres, the company has brought employment opportunities and economic regeneration to regional locations such as Doxford, Dearne Valley, Greenock and Merthyr Tydfil.


  The mobile industry is evolving quickly to deliver exciting, new and innovative technologies to the marketplace. The use of SMS (short message service) or text messages is already incredibly popular, with over 100 million SMS calls sent monthly by One 2 One customers by the end of 2000. The volume of text messages on the One 2 One network increased from 38 million in Q2 1999 to 280 million in Q2 2000.

  The possibilities for the future use of mobile technology are widespread. The implementation of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) this year will offer faster internet access, which will further be improved upon by the introduction of third generation (3G) technology. One 2 One invested over £4 billion in a 3G licence for UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) in May 2000.

  Third generation mobile devices will offer a range of data-based services including the internet, e-mail, information services, advertising and transactions. Several studies have predicted that more people will be connecting to the internet via their mobiles than via computers by 2003. Besides facilitating e-commerce and m-commerce, mobiles will be capable of delivering education and information services. The government's vision of a "knowledge economy" and of Britain as the best place to conduct e-commerce will be considerably aided by the successful implementation of third generation technology.


  It is a fact that mobile technology can only work if base stations (masts) are located near to the customers wishing to access the network. The network also has to have the capacity to handle the dramatically increasing volume of calls being made by customers. In order to meet the present and future demand for mobile communications, and to provide the quality of network our customers expect, One 2 One is focusing on network excellence—and is investing £2 million on the network each working day to achieve this objective.

  At present One 2 One's network covers 98 per cent of the population of Great Britain, but given the increase in customer numbers, it needs additional capacity to cope with the sheer volume of voice and data traffic travelling on its network. Figures show that the total number of calls the One 2 One network handles every week increased from 235 million in 1999 to 285 million in 2000. In addition to the increase in call numbers, the total number of call minutes has grown from 1,478 million minutes in July-September 1999 to 2,023 million minutes in the equivalent period a year later.

  In order to accommodate the demand for both present and future mobile services, One 2 One and other mobile operators need to develop base stations to ensure excellent coverage. Put simply, mobile communications cannot work without a sufficient network of base stations.

  This issue of roll-out has, however, aroused public concern, focusing on health and environmental matters, and we believe these concerns must and can be reconciled with providing a first-rate telecoms infrastructure for the UK.

  One 2 One is unequivocal about its responsibility to address the areas of concern. We believe that this can best be achieved through better consultation and genuine dialogue with local communities and planning authorities. To this end One 2 One has:

    —  Established a Community Liaison Team to engage with local communities on the siting of base stations.

    —  Encouraged site-sharing, with approximately two-thirds of the company's base stations being shared or on existing structures.

    —  Demonstrated our commitment to the health and safety of the public by ensuring that all its base stations comply with ICNIRP international guidelines.

    —  Worked with, and fully supported, the FEI programme to establish and implement generic commitments to improve the way the industry informs and consults with stakeholders.

  One 2 One notes that the Stewart Report (May 2000) concluded that the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general health risk from base stations. However, it accepts the precautionary approach as recommended by Stewart, and supports both in principle and financially the further programme of research being overseen by the government.

  One 2 One is committed to acting in a socially responsible way when dealing with stakeholders on its base station roll-out. However, as One 2 One made clear in its response to the DETR consultation on planning submitted in October 2000, the company believes that a move to a full-planning system for base stations is not the way to adequately address community concerns and may even exacerbate them. This is because the planning process is neither designed to address concerns such as health, nor provide a mechanism for individuals to stop base station development. Indeed, One 2 One has already experienced examples of community concern over base stations secured by full-planning applications.

  However, such a move would result in delay in base station roll-out in the UK, as the element of timing certainty inherent in the current system would no longer be present. This would clearly have an impact on the timely delivery of 3G services. Whilst not addressing community concern, a move to full-planning would therefore have adverse economic effects, jeopardising Britain's advance position in mobile communications as they continues to develop into the future.

7 March 2001

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