KPN’s mobile division has reported strong customer growth for the full year 2003, attracting 1.2 million new users during the year to take its total customer base to 14.7 million. Its German subsidiary E-Plus accounted for 937,000 of the new additions, taking its total to 8.2 million, while BASE in Belgium added 114,000 – 90,000 in the fourth quarter alone – and claimed a customer base of 1.25 million. KPN Mobile in the Netherlands ended the year with around 5.2 million subscribers, having added 171,000 in the twelve month period.
Pursuant to a licensing agreement with Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, KPN launched a European version of the cellco’s i-mode mobile internet technology in Germany in March 2002, and in its domestic market the following month. At the end of 2003 the company had 870,000 i-mode users across the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, a significant increase on the 236,000 reported a year earlier.
The ever increasing popularity of the company’s i-mode service can be seen as a good indication of the future success of 3G. KPN acquired one of the five Dutch UMTS licences for EUR711 million on 4 August 2000, and in November the following year the company signed an MoU with O2 to share 3G infrastructure. In Germany it paid USD7.62 billion for a licence in August 2000 and in Belgium, BASE secured a B-band licence for EUR150 million in March 2001. KPN is yet to actually launch 3G services, but has announced plans to spend EUR1.1 billion on its 3G businesses in fiscal 2005, concentrating in particular on Germany, where it hopes to have services available to 50% of the population – around nine million subscribers – by the end of the period.