Mobile phone operator Vodafone, recently renamed from Panafon-Vodafone, said yesterday that its customer base at the end of 2001 reached 2.88 million, marking a 29.6 percent year-on-year increase and pointing to the neck-and-neck race with archrival CosmOTE. CosmOTE continued to maintain a slight lead in the local mobile telephone market. The state-controlled company earlier this month announced a 42.8 percent year-on-year rise in customer volume to 2.94 million. Vodafone said prepaid subscribers continued to form the bulk of its customer base, amounting to 71.9 percent of its customer volume, while the remaining 28.1 percent were contract users. Prepaid customers increased by 39.6 percent and contract subscribers by 9.4 percent. The prepaid segment benefited from the immense popularity of the CU package, launched nearly two years ago to tap the youth market, which has provided 61 percent of company growth. Vodafone said it captured 35.1 percent of net additions in Greece last year, signing up 188,752 subscribers, of which 41,919 were contract subscribers. It said its chain of outlets contributed to 57 percent of the new additions. The mobile phone operator said its retention programs have been successful in retaining customers with the blended churn rate declining by 6.7 percent to 11.3 percent in the nine-month period ending December 31, 2001. More importantly, the active customer base, defined as those who have made a call in the last three months, came up to 77 percent of the total customer volume. Vodafone Albania, the mobile phone company in which Vodafone holds a 49 percent stake (with parent company Vodafone International Holdings retaining a 51 percent share) reported a total of 118,567 customers in its first five months of operation. The company’s rapid growth showed it is becoming a serious threat to CosmOTE subsidiary AMC, which added some 68,000 new customers in the last quarter of 2001.Vodafone’s shares rose by 2.47 percent to close at 6.64 euros yesterday.