Vodafone rejects Conroy's 4G user sledge: We have a million

Vodafone rejects Conroy's 4G user sledge: We have a million

Summary: Vodafone Australia has rejected a claim by former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the company boasts the fastest 4G network because it has no customers.

TOPICS: Telcos, 4G, Australia

Australia's third-largest mobile network operator Vodafone has rejected a sledge from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the company has no customers on its 4G network, confirming that it now has over 1 million on the network since the launch in June last year.

Last week, an independent test of the 4G networks of Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone found that in Sydney and Melbourne, Vodafone has the fastest download speeds on its 4G network.

The report led to former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy launching yet another attack on the company, claiming that it could only boast about the result because of its lack of customers.

"So maybe Vodafone has the fastest 4G network—probably because it has got no customers!," Conroy said at an NBN Senate Committee hearing in Perth on Wednesday.

Vodafone was the last of the major telcos to launch 4G, and it came as the company looked to stop bleeding customers to the other two mobile operators after almost three years of network issues stemming back to 2010.

As of the end of September, which is the last time Vodafone reported its customer numbers to the market, the company had lost a total of 2.5 million customers since 2010, and saw its mobile customer base decline from 7.5 million to just over 5 million.

At the last set of results, Vodafone claimed that around 400,000 of the SIMs deactivated were as a result of an audit of inactive SIMs, and ZDNet can reveal that in November and December, Vodafone saw its months of customer growth for post-paid in three years.

Today, Vodafone's chief marketing officer Kim Clarke said that 1 million of its customers are now using 4G devices on the 4G network, with the company getting around 30,000 new devices on its 4G network every week.

"As much as some detractors joke about Vodafone's well-known network issues in 2010, the fact is in 2014, Vodafone's networks, both 3G and 4G, are offering consistent fast, reliable data speeds right around the country," Clarke said.

Comparatively, Optus reported at the end of September that it had 1.37 million 4G handsets on its network — the company has not yet disclosed mobile broadband sales — while Telstra reported that as of October, the company had 3.2 million 4G devices on its network.

Telstra boasts the largest 4G network, reaching 85 percent of the population at the end of 2013. Vodafone currently reaches the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.

Conroy's criticism is not the first he has laid at the feet of Vodafone. In early 2013, when he was still the minister for communications, he rejected Vodafone's call for the government to stop paying Telstra universal service obligation payments, and compared the company's American-born CEO Bill Morrow unfavourably to Telstra's most controversial CEO Sol Trujillo.

"They lost 750,000 customers due to poor service and they want to lecture to everybody, they want to cut those people off. They are doing a good enough job of that themselves," he allegedly said.

"We haven't seen another telco CEO act like this since Sol Trujillo."

Morrow has since been picked by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to become the new CEO of the government-owned NBN Co.

Topics: Telcos, 4G, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • 1 million devices on the 4G network or just network

    Not the best reporting here. The article starts out implying that there are 1 million devices on the 4G network, but Vodafone has said "1 million of its customers are now using 4G devices". You don't even need any 4G network to make that claim.

    The missing piece here is coverage, how does Vodafone's 4G coverage compare to Optus and Telstra?
    • Sorry

      Should be clearer. I was trying to point out that it has 1 million new 4G devices on its 4G network but that they're unlikely to be new customers.

      Will amend so it is clearer for you.
      Josh Taylor
  • Politicians should be more careful

    It would indeed have been surprising if Vodafone had had no customers. Commerical firms do need customers in order to stay out of bankruptcy court.
    John L. Ries
  • 4G? Where? Look! Up in the sky! A PIE!!

    Come on Vodafone! I live in the Blue Mountains NSW and there is no such animal as 4G here even though I own a 4G compatible device. So, on a trip to Penrith where they say it is available, I STILL get no 4G even though my device is set to use it IF it sniffs it out! Not long before last Xmas I had to go to the city and while at the QVB tunnel, I chanced upon a Vodafone booth and asked them where this supposed 4G was. They said "Oh not down here but go outside and it is everywhere". I did that and got no 4G at all so came back and said "Want to try again?" to them so they went upstairs with THEIR 4G devices and couldnt get Vodafone 4G either. They didnt have an answer. I asked them why they told me it would be there when it wasnt. They answered that was what the coverage map showed.

    So, your coverage map is either crap or your 4G is like wishing upon a star!

    As soon as my contract is up this coming December, I am moving to Telstra because, apart from wanting better reception where I live, I sometimes go on holidays to Broken Hill. West of Nyngan you lose contact with Vodafone and you dont pick it up again till East of Broken Hill. Every Telstra user in Wilcannia and Cobar are happily using their Telstra accounts but me with Vodafone gets nothing. About the only positive Vodafone thing I can say is last year I drove to Cairns and had SOME form of reception most of the way up the east coast. Just dont be a Vodafone customer and live anywhere else in the country!
    • well good for you, but...

      ... here on the Central Coast I have had consistently faster and more reliable mobile connections since ditching Telstra for a Vodaphone mobile plan, with more cbd 4G service access than Telstra too.

      ... and my mobile plan and data for my Vodaphone Galaxy Note 3 leaves Telstra's for dead.
  • Conroy's Possible Legacy.

    Does anyone still have any respect for Conroy's opinions? A man determined introduce censorship on our internet use.
    How many thousands of supporters did Conroy cost his government in his stubborn pursuit of his secret internet blacklist filter?
    Without that resulting dramatic drop in the polls would Labour still have switched leaders & later have to break election promises by introducing all those hugely unpopular Green & Independent compromises in order to retain government?
    Would Rupert then still have had a dream run in installing Abbott to do his bidding?