Telstra complaints rise alongside market share

The TIO and Kantar have both published their latest stats on the Australian telecommunications industry, with outage-riddled Telstra increasing in both complaints and market share.

According to the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) statistics for April to June 2016, consumer complaints about Telstra are growing higher -- while at the same time, it increases its mobile market share, analyst firm Kantar has said.

Every quarter, the TIO, in conjunction with Communications Alliance, publishes a Complaints in Context report [PDF] covering landline, mobile, and internet service complaints from residential and small business consumers.

Over the quarter, complaints about all telcos remained fairly stagnant, down 1.54 percent year on year and up 3.2 percent quarter on quarter to 6.4 new complaints per 10,000 services in operation (SIO).

Complaints about incumbent telecommunications provider Telstra were again on the rise, up by 13.3 percent year on year from 6 per 10,000 SIO to 6.8, and up by 6.25 percent quarter on quarter.

Telstra suffered four network outages over the period, which may have impacted the number of complaints filed: An NBN and ADSL outage in May that resulted in the telco having to send free modems to customers still affected several days later; a mobile data services outage later that week; a broadband service outage in June; and an outage that took down businesses across Victoria, including banks, hospitals, department stores, and Jetstar.

As a result, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn in June committed the telco to investing an additional AU$250 million in its network over the next six to 12 months in three major areas: AU$50 million to be spent on improving mobile network resiliency by creating better real-time monitoring and speeding up recovery time; AU$100 million on increasing the core fixed-line network's reliability and resiliency; and AU$100 million on upping its ADSL broadband capacity to cope with demand.

According to statistics on mobile market share by analyst firm Kantar, Telstra has also increased its market share thanks to competition over data inclusions; as of June, it holds 41.8 percent of total market share, up 1.6 percentage points; 42 percent of the prepaid sector, up 1.9 percentage points; 44.6 percent of the post-paid segment, up 2.1 percentage points; and 31.2 percent of the no contract market, up 1.2 percentage points.

Optus, on the other hand, saw its complaints decrease over the same period -- down by 9.4 percent year on year, from 8.5 new complaints per 10,000 SIO to 7.7, and down by 2.5 percent quarter on quarter.

While its complaints fell, its total mobile market share remained stagnant, increasing by only 0.4 percentage points to hold 21.8 percent of the market. In the prepaid sector, it lost 0.2 percentage points, down to 20.1 percent of the market; in post-paid, it rose by 0.5 percentage points to hold 23.3 percent of the market; and in the no-contract segment, it gained 2.2 percentage points up to 20.1 percent of the market.

Also falling in complaints was Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), which was down by 39.68 percent year on year, from 6.3 new complaints per 10,000 SIO to just 3.8, although up slightly from the 3.7 reported last quarter.

"We're very proud of our fast, reliable network, worry-free products, and high standard of customer service, so it's pleasing to see Vodafone again has the lowest level of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman of the network operators. This is the fourth quarter in a row," a Vodafone spokesperson said in a statement.

"Over recent years, Vodafone has achieved an extraordinary turnaround. This transformation is reflected in a number of industry benchmarks, including Vodafone's status as the least complained about mobile telco for the past 12 months.

"Our ratio of 3.8 complaints per 10,000 services in operation for the June 2016 quarter is 40 percent lower than the industry average, and represents a 73 percent reduction on the same quarter in 2014."

In terms of mobile market share, VHA was down by 0.5 percentage points to hold 15.2 percent total mobile market share; down by 1.2 percentage points to hold 14.2 percent of the prepaid sector; up by 0.6 percentage points to hold 17.1 percent of the post-paid market; and down by 1.6 to hold 10.4 percent of the no-contract segment.

According to the TIO, Amaysim's consumer complaints fell drastically over the quarter -- by 55.6 percent year on year, from 1.8 per 10,000 SIO to just 0.8, and down 20 percent quarter on quarter. Market share also grew; Amaysim in conjunction with Vaya -- which it acquired for AU$70 million in January -- rose by 0.3 percentage points to hold 4.5 percent total mobile market share.

Amaysim and Vaya were down in prepaid, from 6.7 percent market share to 5.9 percent, and were down by 0.3 percentage points in post-paid, to 1.5 percent market share, but rose by almost 2 percentage points to hold 12.5 percent of the no-contract segment.

The TIO also reported that Pivotal was down by 44.4 percent year on year in complaints, from 1.8 per 10,000 SIO to 1, but up by 25 percent quarter on quarter, while Kantar revealed that AldiMobile -- which utilises Telstra's 4G network -- grew its total mobile market share from 1.8 percent to 2.2 percent; Virgin, which runs on Optus' 4G network, fell by a percentage point, down to 5.4 percent of total market share; Boost, which also uses Telstra's 4G network, rose by 0.1 percentage point up to 5.4 percent of total market share; TPG and iiNet, which use the Vodafone network, saw their market share fall by 0.5 percentage points down to 2.8 percent; and all other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) also decreased in total market share, from 6.3 percent down to 5.5 percent.