Telstra CEO David Thodey believes the Next G network has coped very well with adding 2.5 million new customers in the last 18 months, despite complaints from customers in capital cities that the customer load is starting to impact network performance.
In the last six months of 2011 alone, the company added close to 1 million more mobile customers, bringing the total number on the Next G mobile network to 13.2 million. Thodey said that despite the extra load, Telstra was "very pleased" with the performance of the network.
"It performed very well. When you add two and half million new services over a two-and-half-year period that's an enormous amount to cater for, but thankfully the network has been very well architected [sic] and is doing very well," he told journalists.
"Whenever you look at our network, there can be hotspots in any one period, but we're pretty quick to fix them up when they happen."
Telstra is so confident in its network that last year it also began offering wholesale 3G services, and Thodey said there was a lot of demand for the services. Thodey could not confirm at the time, but said he believed Telstra had signed up one reseller so far.
But despite Thodey's confidence in the network, users in Sydney and Melbourne CBDs, in particular through Twitter and broadband website Whirlpool, have reported constant issues with data and call dropouts.
In addition to mobile phone customers, Telstra has experienced significant uptake of its mobile broadband devices, adding 436,000 new mobile broadband customers and selling 100,000 dongles for its long-term evolution (LTE) network.
Many customers in regional and remote Australia use mobile broadband as an alternative to fixed-line services that are not available to them. As the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls out over the next 10 years, Thodey said he expected the impact of the roll-out to have minimal impact on customer numbers.
"When we looked at the NBN transaction, we've always looked at the mobile broadband, fixed broadband mix," he said. "This is 10 years, and a 20-year profile. In the bigger scheme of things it is very very small. It is not a significant component."
"They are very different products. In the home, we're enabling a whole new digital future for how they get entertainment, how they interact with each other, what they do, how they transact. The other experience is what they do on the move. We see enormous opportunity for people to have multiple products going forward."
He said just having a fixed connection alone will not be enough.
Telstra is the last major telco to hold out signing a one-year wholesale broadband agreement with NBN Co to provide services over the network. Thodey said that the company was working out the final details of the agreement, but that it would be signed soon.
"We're just tidying up a few points there. It's imminent I think, we just need to work through the final bits. No big drama there. No impact on the [structural separation undertaking] at all. We think it's just important to get the settings right going forward."
On the structural separation undertaking that Telstra provided to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission late last year, Thodey would not confirm speculation that it would be accepted by the commission by the end of February but said it was close to completion.
Thodey said the industry code for improving customer service submitted to the regulator this week was "very strong", but that Telstra was committed to improving customer service regardless of what the industry or the regulator does.
"I believe in giving good customer service not because of regulators," he said. "In some ways I say 'whatever' because we're going to do it anyway."
As a party with the Australian Football League (AFL), Thodey also welcomed the government's announcement that it was reviewing the Copyright Act in the wake of the Optus TV Now ruling, but would not rule out walking away from the $153 million agreement with the AFL for mobile broadcasting rights.
"We are pleased with the contract we have with the AFL, we will continue to derive value out of that. We are still considering what our options are, but we will [maintain] close dialogue with the NRL and the AFL."