Optus’ 4G cash splash pays off as users jump aboard

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Optus’ 4G cash splash pays off as users jump aboard

But mobile broadband users disappear in droves.

Optus is beginning to see tangible results from its $2 billion investment into its 4G network, today reporting an almost 100 percent increase in mobile subscribers to its 4G services.

The telco’s parent company SingTel earlier this year said it would allocate just under $2 billion to Optus’ network expansion, setting aside $750 million for wireless spectrum to bring 4G to the bush, and $1.2 billion in capital expenditure predominantly for 4G mobile network upgrades over the next year.

Optus is aiming to cover 90 percent of the population with 4G by April next year. During its most recent quarter it upgraded 2245 sites to 4G to reach 83 percent metropolitan on-street coverage.

The telco’s 4G push is also being propelled by the 2x10 MHz of 700 MHz and 2x20 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum it bought in the Government’s digital dividend auction for $649 million.

The investment is beginning to pay off - Optus today reported an almost 100 percent increase in 4G mobile subscribers in its last half year to September 30, jumping from 1.38 million customers in the same period last year to 2.74 million.

Optus spent $626 million in its most recent quarter on the 2600MHz and 700MHz spectrum, after the telco (along with its rival Telstra) were given access to the 2600MHz and given an early access license by the Australian Communications and Media Authority for the 700MHz, which becomes officially available in January.

It plans to turn on 4G services in all state capital cities and 100 regional towns through January.

Mobile numbers continue to drop

The results were less rosy for Optus’ overall mobile subscriber numbers.

Its total subscriber base dropped to just over 9.4 million despite a jump of 65,000 extra prepaid and postpaid handset customers in the past three months. In contrast, Telstra counts 16 million mobile users on its books.

The result was attributed to a continuing decline in mobile broadband users, which fell 70,000 in the most recent quarter, and by 207,000 compared to the same six months in 2013. Over the past year, Optus' overall mobile user numbers have fallen by 92,000.

However, Optus’ average revenue per user grew for mobile broadband customers in the last half compared to the last six months of 2013, up from $19 to $21. Prepaid handset APRU also increased from $24 to $26, while postpaid handset ARPU fell from $61 to $59 compared to the same period last year.

Data revenue jumped four percent to represent 66 percent of Optus’ entire service revenue in the past six months, which Optus attributed to its recent introduction of “customer-friendly data plans” such as the new My Plan Plus, which is “designed to remove bill shock”.

Overall mobile revenue grew to $2.71 million from $2.69 million, while net profit for the half experienced a two percent jump to $394 million.

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