Telstra looks to tablets to offset dongle decline

Businesses and consumers are increasingly moving away from laptops with dongles towards using larger-screen smartphones and tethering, according to Telstra.

Telstra is aiming to grow its mobile broadband offerings through tablets to offset the increasing number of customers moving away from using dongles for laptops to tethering and using mobile phones with larger screens.

At the company's investor day in Sydney on Thursday, the company's executive director of mobile and wireline Warwick Bray noted that average revenue per user on mobile broadband had declined by 71 cents for the first half of the 2015 financial year, and while Telstra is gaining market share in mobile broadband, he said that the sector as a whole is not growing.

"The reason it is not growing is that many of the tasks customers were doing on mobile broadband-dedicated devices, they're doing on handheld [phones]," he said.

"They're either doing it on handheld because the screens are bigger, or they are doing it through tethering. Some of the weakness you're seeing in mobile broadband, the converse of that is the strength of handheld."

While customers are moving away from dongles, Bray said, the company is still seeing a lot of opportunity to grow the mobile hotspot market, where multiple users can connect to the internet through one device.

Bray said that although dongle use is declining, Telstra sees this as an opportunity to get more customers to move to tablets away from PCs.

"We see enormous opportunity in this area, and the big opportunity in the consumer side of things is to replace laptops and PCs in our customers' homes with tablets," he said.

"What we're seeing is that with the upper end of tablets, they're really starting to become replacements for PCs and tablets. That's a great outcome for our customers, because they can move from a static, unconnected device to a more mobile and connected device."

Telstra stores will soon sell more "upper end" hybrid tablets, Bray said.

For businesses, Bray said tablets offer the opportunity to improve the productivity of their workforce.

Bray said that Telstra had worked with Conservation Volunteers Australia to deploy 210 tablets connected to the Telstra mobile network, with Aris and Canvas licences. The conservation organisation won a tender to collect data in the field using the tablets, he said.