VHA's loss is rivals' gain in customer race

Dylan Bushell-Embling
12 May 2011

Vodafone Australia's network woes caused it to bleed customers to rivals Telstra and Optus in the March quarter.

SingTel yesterday revealed its Australian subsidiary Optus grew its postpaid customer base by 151,000 during the period, exceeding the 150,000 subscribers added in the historically busy Christmas quarter.

The company added March with nearly 9.1 million mobile customers, up 570,000 from the same period a year ago. But prepaid customers fell by 47,000 due to higher than average churn.

Telstra had earlier revealed it had added 197,000 post-paid customers during the quarter, and 364,000 total mobile services in operation.

According to Ovum senior analyst Nicole McCormick, this is the equivalent of two quarters of growth for the operator.

Based on the company's customer base at the end of the year, this means Telstra had nearly 6.3 million postpaid subscribers at the end of the March quarter, and 11.8 million total mobile SIOs.

Telstra is conducting an A$1 billion ($1.07 billion) project to improve customer satisfaction and grow its subscriber base.

Vodafone Australia, by contrast had a worse than expected quarter. Joint venture VHA lost 244,000 postpaid customers, resulting in a net subscriber loss of 150,000, according to a research note issued by Goldman Sachs.

VHA, which operates the Vodafone Australia and Hutchison Australia brands, added 681,000 customers in 2010, ending the year with over 7.5 million.

But Vodafone Australia has been attracting negative attention over allegations of poor network coverage and a series of outages.

Complaints to the telecom ombudsman about Vodafone Australia nearly doubled over the March quarter, according to statistics published earlier this month.

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