Vodafone Australia churn nears half a million for 2011

 

British joint owners 'not pleased'.

Vodafone Australia is expected to report the loss of more than 500,000 customers from its network over the 2011 calendar year as it prepares to report full-year financial results later this month.

The losses come as Optus and Telstra reported mobile customer growth of 444,000 customers and 1.7 million customers respectively over the same period.

Figures released late last week by Vodafone Hutchison Australia's British joint-owner revealed the Australian telco had lost 60,000 registered customers over the quarter to December 31.

They come in addition to existing losses of 450,000 over the three quarters to the end of September reported by Vodafone UK, but yet to be reported by Australian joint-owner Hutchison Telecommunications Australia (HTA).

HTA, which is set to report its full-year financials on February 24, is expected to reveal the total cost network disruptions and customer churn has had on Vodafone Australia's customer base.

Unlike its British venture partner, the Australian joint owner will rely on the telco's active subscriber base - rather than just registered customers - while also including resellers of the telco's network which make up slightly less than 200,000 customers to the base.

A spokesman for Vodafone Hutchison Australia confirmed reported customer figures from Vodafone UK account for half of actual changes according to its 50 percent equity stake in the company.

Even so, full-year losses are expected to amount to approximately 510,000 customers for the year, according to the British Vodafone figures.

The Australian telco has continued to struggle to retain customers following network disruptions at the end of 2010.

The telco has been dogged by complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, despite investing nearly $1 billion to revamp its network and launching a new marketing campaign to retain subscribers.

Vodafone UK told investors last week that customer losses could largely be attributed to higher churn rates from the 3 brand, which remains in migration to the Vodafone network.

But Vodafone's British CEO Vittorio Colao said he was "not very pleased with the performance".

"I think we have done the right thing, except it is taking longer than expected to get the customers back," he said.

Australian mobile base grows

Australia's mobile subscriber base expanded significantly over the past year.

Despite Vodafone's significant losses, Optus and Telstra chalked up accelerated customer growth with a combined 1.65 million services added to the market.

Much of the growth appears to have come from increasing interest in mobile broadband services.

In particular, Telstra CEO David Thodey pointed last week to its burgeoning LTE service as a success, having sold 100,000 compatible dongles in three months following the network's launch.

Deutsche Bank analysts last week said Telstra had garnered 1.3 percent market share from rivals due to strong customer growth driven by iPhone 4S and mobile broadband sales.

"We expect competitive pressures to escalate as the market penetration reaches saturation point and Optus and VHA look to claw back lost market share,"  the firm said.

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