Vodafone Hutchison Australia is set to become a fixed-line telecommunications company after officially signing on to offer trial services for the National Broadband Network at the first release mainland sites, CEO Nigel Dews today announced at the Hutchison annual general meeting.
Vodafone Hutchison Australia CEO Nigel Dews (Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)
Despite Vodafone stating in the past that it wanted to offer NBN services, it was not one of the 12 original retailers announced by NBN CO last month to offer it at the first release sites. These release sites are set to go live soon, starting with Armidale this month. Customers who live within the trial area will be contacted with the offer of a free trial of Vodafone's fixed line broadband service, Dews said.
Dews told ZDNet Australia that the company had held off until it had assurances from NBN Co that the company could supply fibre backhaul for its mobile towers.
"We've said right from the start that both the retail trial and developing base station access solutions are important, and now we're comfortable that both of those are progressing," he said.
Dews said that as a new player in the fixed-line market, it was important to ensure that the telco was on an even standing as the big players in fixed line such as Telstra, Optus and iiNet.
"It's different for us because we're a new entrant in that market and it was quite important that we discussed the differences between being a new entrant and being an incumbent to make sure that what's happening is providing a level playing field," he said.
Ombudsman complaints dropping
In response to the figures released this morning by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), which showed Vodafone had experienced a 96 per cent increase in the number of complaints to the ombudsman in the first three months of 2011, Dews placed blame on the well-publicised network issues in December and January and was optimistic that the telco had recovered since then.
"What I'm really pleased with inside that month on month trend is falling and April looks like we're back to November levels," he said. "What's important is that that continues to fall. It's a large number and it was a huge concern. I'm really pleased with how we've got that sorted out."
Dews said the industry as a whole had to respond to the rise in complaints.
"As an industry I still have those longer term concerns that complaints are too high, but in terms of our own contribution to that, that is well and truly under control," he said. "If you look historically we are not the largest. We're the biggest increase in there, but in that first quarter all participants saw an increase."
Dews said that at the peak of the network troubles the telco experienced a 2 per cent churn rate from its 7.5 million customers. This had since gone down to 1.8 per cent.
"All metrics are improving and we're well and truly into the recovery phase," he said. "More customers did leave, but more customers joined as well."