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Exclusive: Worrying number of mobile users still believe that unlocking is illegal

Mobile phone subscriptions are big business in the UK with 81 million of them active for a nation where the population totals around 63 million. But which network is currently winning the battle?

A recent survey carried out by phone unlocking specialists Mobile Unlocked (opens in new tab) looked at the UK mobile phone market, aiming to answer one particular question - if there were no barriers to switching a network, such as phone contracts, locked phones, etc, which network would most people join? And perhaps more importantly why?

The conclusions were surprising. Even though Vodafone currently control 21 per cent of the market, most people would prefer to join O2, which would see them run away with 27 per cent of the market.

Vodafone were actually amongst the biggest losers, with only 15 per cent wanting to stay or join them in return. Another big winner here was GiffGaff, a relatively new network which is also owned by O2. The network would nearly double its customer numbers if locked phones and contracts didn’t exist, from a current total of five per cent to nine per cent.

So, what is driving all this and why do people want to change anyway? Well, the number 1 reason is price. 46 per cent of people would switch networks if they could because they’d get a cheaper deal (or at least they think they will).

Of those that decided to stick with their provider, nearly sixty per cent thought they were already getting a pretty sweet deal and didn’t want to leave. Up second was the importance of good mobile phone reception with a fifth of people currently unhappy with the signal they receive.

Worryingly, there are a huge number of people who simply don’t know what they need to do to switch providers. Currently half of those who wanted to switch are tied to a contract, however a staggering 41 per cent of all respondents didn’t even know that phone unlocking was legal. Obviously networks are doing a good job of hazing the lines for those who want to switch and keeping hold of those that can’t.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.