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Vodafone customer numbers continue to slide

Vodafone Australia's customer subscriber numbers for the first six months of 2013 dropped by 137,000.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Vodafone Australia's joint owner Hutchison remains optimistic that the company can turn itself around, despite a big quarterly loss of customers of 93,000 between April and June this year.

The results out for the first six months of the year for Vodafone's co-parent company Hutchison, reveal that the company lost another 137,000 customers over the six months, including 93,000 in the last three months alone, taking into account Vodafone Group's reporting of 44,000 customers leaving the mobile telecommunications company in the first three months of this year.

Including Vodafone's wholesale customers, the base sits at 5.2 million subscribers. Vodafone's own customer numbers sit slightly below 5 million.

Vodafone is largely confident that its customer numbers are stablising, especially in postpaid where the company has offered larger data offerings than its competitors in many cases. Retaining and gaining Prepaid and mobile broadband remains a challenge for Vodafone at this point.

Hutchison also mentioned that wholesale numbers declined in the quarter.

For the half, Hutchison reported an AU$79.5 million loss, an improvement by 17 percent from the AU$95.8 million loss for the same half in 2013.

Vodafone's revenue for the half was AU$1.7 billion, with a total loss for the company for the half of AU$158.6 million.

Vodafone, under former CEO Bill Morrow, had said the company would begin to see growth in 2014, but this has failed to eventuate so far, and new CEO Inaki Berroeta has been reluctant to commit to the timetable set out by Morrow before he departed for NBN Co.

Hutchison said that Vodafone's strategy was to become "Australia's leading data company in metropolitan areas", through the company's Red plans, and the rollout of Vodafone's large allocation of spectrum in the 1800MHz band.

"VHA has successfully positioned itself for rapid growth in data. VHA will continue to focus on market communications to increase awareness for VHA's capability to offer data speeds and continue to focus on the value of its customer plans which include generous data volume inclusions."

Vodafone's 4G advantage in this area won't last for long, however, with Optus and Telstra getting early access to more 4G spectrum from the digital dividend this week, ahead of a wider rollout in 2015.

Hutchison said that Vodafone was rolling out 4G to 100 new sites per month on average, but this would be ramped up to 300 per month later this year.

Vodafone was also upgrading and modernising its IT systems in call centres and retail stores to make it easier to sign up or upgrade customers, and the company said it was focusing on its investment in online services.

Despite the ongoing issues with customer retention and acquisition, Hutchison was confident of the company's turnaround progress.

"With the support from its joint shareholders, VHA has built a strong foundation to capitalise on the exponential growth in demand for data," the company said in its report to the Australian Securities Exchange.

"In the second half of 2014 and into 2015, VHA will continue to improve the commercial capabilities of the business, with further improvements to service, online retail capabilities and points of sale to match its commercial presence to its expanded network coverage."

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