Optus' window on the iPhone

10 Jun 2008

The mobile division of SingTel's Australian unit Optus is regaining market traction and is set for a head start over Telstra in the launch of the Apple iPhone in Australia.

Results for the first three months of 2008 show Australia's number two telco signed 135,000 new mobile customers in the quarter to March 31, its best quarterly result in three years, which lifted its total customer base to 7.14 million.

The full year figures showed that the mobile division, which makes up more than half of total revenues of A$7.76 billion ($7.45 billion), grew 4.3%.

"We're committing to growing our market share of the market," Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan said, commenting on the results. "Our most powerful business is the mobile division and we've focused on strengthening it."

Key to the growth plans is the timing of the distribution deal parent SingTel has struck to market the iPhone in Asia Pacific.

Australia's third ranked carrier Vodafone, which has 17% of the mobile market, has already announced it will sell the iPhone, which is now compatible with Australia's 3G networks, but the deal with Optus is significant in that it will deliver a window of advantage over Telstra.

A stock market telcoms analyst in Sydney claimed Optus could have a "two to three month break" in the marketing of the iPhone. "Optus is showing it is very serious about challenging Telstra in mobiles, and the iPhone deal comes after some major announcements about further investment in their business."

Optus announced in May it would invest A$315 million to expand its mobile coverage from 96% of the Australian population to 98%, with a completion date of December 2009.

This followed a A$500 million upgrade to extend the reach of its 3G and wireless broadband networks announced last year. The Optus network currently offers a maximum of 3.6 Mbps, but delivering faster speed is a priority.

Also in May, Optus teamed up with Huawei Technologies to develop a Mobile Innovation Center in Sydney, aimed at accelerating the adoption of high-speed mobile and wireless broadband.

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