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Vodafone Australia sheds another 216,000 customers

In the first three months of this year, Vodafone saw an increase in the number of customers leaving the troubled telco.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Vodafone Group has reported a steady increase in the number of customers leaving Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), with another 216,000 leaving the telco in the first three months of 2013.

Vodafone, which has a 50 percent stake in VHA with Hutchison, overnight confirmed that the Australian company lost another 216,000 customers between January and the end of March this year, bringing the company's customer base down to slightly over 6 million.

Despite moves within Vodafone to start to win back customers with a network guarantee, a self-deprecating advertising campaign aimed at showing how the telco has changed, and has improved its network since the infamous 2010 and 2011 network issues, the trend of customers leaving the network has yet to be reversed. By comparison, in the last three months of 2012, the company lost 128,000 customers.

Since 2010, the company has now lost approximately 1.5 million customers.

Vodafone Group acknowledged that Australia continued to be a difficult area for the company, and was continuing to experience steep revenue declined on the back of "ongoing service perception issues".

The results would not have been unexpected for VHA, however. Vodafone Australia CEO Bill Morrow has previously said that he did not expect the company to begin to see a turnaround and be back to customer growth until towards the end of 2013.

Vodafone is also now a much leaner company than it once was, with a 45 percent reduction in headcount in the last year.

Vodafone will be banking on the launch of its 4G network later this month as the start of an attempt to woo back customers. While the company's rivals have a major headstart on 4G — Telstra has 2.1 million 4G devices on its network, and Optus has 785,000 4G handsets — Vodafone will be able to launch in 1800MHz with potentially faster download speeds on the network due to the company's large spectrum holdings in the 1800MHz band.

It was for this reason that Vodafone opted to sit out the recent Digital Dividend spectrum auction. The advantage will be short-lived however, with Optus and Telstra gaining access to the 700MHz spectrum band at the start of 2015, and both telcos also looking at using a number of alternate spectrum bands for 4G services.

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