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TalkTalk to launch mobile handset later in the year

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TalkTalk
TalkTalk has said that it plans to launch a mobile handset "proposition" later in the year, and confirmed that it will soon expand its trial of the YouView TV set top box service.

Today, TalkTalk's financial results for the three months to March 31 indicated that the firm was back on track after major customer service problems led to the loss of thousands of subscribers in 2011.

Shares in TalkTalk Telecom jumped 15% after chief executive Dido Harding said that the turnaround was "significantly ahead of schedule".

Over the first three months of the year, TalkTalk reduced its net customer losses to 13,000, compared to 43,000 in the previous quarter.

The company has also announced pre-tax profits of £127m in the year to March 31, compared to £57m in the previous year.

Last year, TalkTalk was hit with a £3m fine from Ofcom for billing customers for services they had not actually received. It was also forced to pay out £2.5m to customers who were incorrectly billed.

But Harding said that improvements in customer service have "driven a real improvement in customer numbers and we are on track to deliver total customer growth in the current quarter (Q2 2012)".

"Our strategy has delivered a materially more profitable and stable customer base and a leaner, more efficient cost structure, giving us a strong platform from which to invest in growth opportunities such as Youview," she said.

"We will achieve our growth and margin targets through continued expansion of our network, further operating efficiencies, adding more services to become a genuine quad play, growing scale in our business to business operations and increasing our sales of superfast broadband.

"We believe the successful implementation of this strategy, supported by our financial strength, will deliver significant customer and shareholder value."

TalkTalk confirmed that it intends to get into the mobile handset market later in the year to bolster its existing mobile offering.

The company currently has a customer base of 70,000 people who take its SIM-only mobile service using Vodafone's network.

"We plan to launch a handset proposition later this year in addition to our existing SIM-only and data products," said the company.

TalkTalk noted that it has seen "significantly lower churn" rates in its mobile base, potentially giving the company the confidence to grow the service.

Various service providers, such as Orange and Virgin Media, already offer own-branded mobile handsets, often using the Google Android operating system. It is likely that TalkTalk will take a similar approach, although no exact details are known at this stage.

TalkTalk also said that its YouView proposition - an IPTV joint venture with the BBC, BT and other media organisations - is on-track for launch in the third quarter of 2012.

The service is currently in a closed trial among TalkTalk employees, but this will expand shortly to customers of the service provider.

Alongside its financial results, TalkTalk said: "YouView will bring to our customers all of the 'plug-in-and-watch' simplicity of Freeview, plus the UK's leading internet catch-up and video on-demand services, all instantly available through one simple, intuitive set-top box and proprietary electronic programme guide.

"Development within the YouView team is progressing well and within TalkTalk we are making good progress on provisioning capability, as well as operational and CRM readiness to support our TV service within our existing operational structures.

"We began 'friends and family' trials focusing on the end-to-end customer experience in April and will be extending the trial to our customers soon."

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