Vodafone launches new Red plans, hints at incoming Wi-Fi calling

Vodafone Australia has launched a new set of post-paid plans to align itself with the customer trend of using data over voice, while similarly mentioning its intentions for VoLTE and VoWiFi.

Vodafone Australia has provided guidance for its coming financial year, with news that it will be launching VoLTE, Wi-Fi calling, and updated data-focused Red post-paid mobile plans.

The telco said that its 4G network now covers 96 percent of the population, with continued growth in data usage predicted for the year ahead. As a result, Vodafone has introduced its new Red plans, which now start at AU$40 with unlimited calls and texts, and 500MB data.

Its AU$60, AU$80, and AU$100 Red plans are now inclusive of Spotify or Stan subscriptions; unlimited calls and texts; AU$5 global roaming; 120 minutes of international calling; and 3GB, 6GB, and 10GB of data, respectively. The two top-tier plans come with infinite international calling to the US, the UK, China, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

BYO (SIM only) Red plans range from AU$30 per month up to AU$80, with similar tiered inclusions. All Red plans also grant 500MB of extra data for every shared plan.

"Vodafone customers love data and our network built for streaming. We've seen their usage double over the last 12 months," said Vodafone Australia chief marketing officer Loo Fun Chee on Wednesday morning.

"Our plans prove that you don't have to spend big to get the data you need."

In the vein of providing increased data services over traditional voice, CEO Inaki Berroeta also mentioned the telco's plans to bring Wi-Fi calling capabilities to customers soon.

"We are launching, very soon, voice over LTE and also Wi-Fi calling," Berroeta said.

Optus earlier this month also announced a Wi-Fi calling app, enabling its customers to make and receive calls and texts to landline and mobile numbers globally via a Wi-Fi connection. Vodafone had been previously reported to be in negotiations with Apple over offering Wi-Fi calling to its customers, while Telstra has not announced any similar plans.

Vodafone Australia director of customer service Errol van Graan also claimed that customer complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) were down 57 percent year-on-year per 10,000 connections from Q2 last year. Network complaints were down 53 percent year-on-year for the six months to July 2015, with the telco attributing this to extensive investment in its network expansion.

Disconnections also declined, down 3 percent. By comparison, the financial year ending 2013 saw the company lose 1.23 million customers, after it had lost hundreds of thousands of customers every year since FY10.

In July, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) released its results for the first half of 2015, announcing a net loss of AU$183.6 million, up 13.3 percent from the AU$158.6 million loss in the same period last year. The results [PDF] also showed a slight increase in its post-paid customer base, which grew 3.3 percent year-on-year in the half ended June 2015 to 3.1 million. Prepaid customers grew marginally, up 0.1 percent to almost 1.7 million. The company reported total revenue of AU$1.77 billion, a year-on-year increase of 2.9 percent.

VHA CFO James Marsh said at the time that the company is "pleased with our performance in this seasonally quiet period for the market", attributing the customer growth to its post-paid Red plans, SIM-only plans, partnership with Spotify, and AU$5 roaming options. Total network customers reached around 5.3 million, a 0.8 percent increase from the same period last year.

Gross average revenue per user (ARPU) increased by 2 percent year-on-year to AU$51.32, with the Vodafone CEO saying on Wednesday that ARPU growth is expected to continue for the year ahead.

Marsh attributed the company's loss to acquisition costs; the offer of cheaper international calling and data options for customers; a higher debt due to a number of its liabilities being held in unhedged US dollars; and increased competition.

"We have seen a step up in competition across both the mobile network operators and the MVNOs, particularly in prepaid," Marsh said in July.

"Our seasonal decline, though, has been at its lowest levels for many years, and we're in a good position for growth in H2.

"We see that [customer base] growing going forward."

Marsh said MVNO customers had dropped over H1, owing to acquisitions by competitors and subsequent customer migrations. MVNO revenue has nonetheless remained stable over the six-month period, according to the CFO.

Vodafone Australia's Q1 2015 results were the first to show revenue growth in several years, with the company reporting 1 percent growth in revenue for the first three months of the year, compared to a decline of 1.3 percent in revenue in the last three months of 2014.

Last week, for the quarter ending June 2015, Optus announced an increase in net profit of 19.5 percent, from AU$164 million last year to AU$196 million this year. Operating revenue was AU$2.3 billion for Q2, an 11.3 percent year-over-year growth in constant currency terms from the AU$2.1 billion reported during the same period last year. Revenue declined by 0.5 percent in terms of reported currency, however, due to parent company Singtel dealing with a weaker Australian dollar.

Optus' EBITDA grew by 7.3 percent for the quarter, from AU$597 million in the three months to June last year, to AU$641 million this year.

Incumbent telco Telstra, on the other hand, reported a AU$260 million drop in net profit for the 2014-15 financial year, down by 5.8 percent year-on-year, from last year's AU$4.55 billion to AU$4.29 billion. EBITDA decreased by 3.5 percent, down from AU$11.1 billion to AU$10.7 billion.

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