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Vodafone records smallest customer drop in 2 years

Vodafone Hutchison Australia recorded a net loss of 22,000 customers for the last three months in 2013, its lowest customer loss since February 2012.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Vodafone Hutchison Australia saw out 2013 with no net customer additions for the combined prepaid and post-paid customer base, but the company will take comfort in recording the lowest net loss of customers since February 2012.

According to results released by Vodafone's part owner Vodafone Group, the parent company reported an 11,000 net loss in customers between October and the end of December 2013. Taking into account Hutchison's share, this represents a total 22,000 customers lost for the company in the quarter, making it the lowest quarterly loss for the company since it lost approximately 30,000 customers in February 2012.

Vodafone Group said that network performance and customer satisfaction with Vodafone in Australia is improving, but the company recorded an 8 percent decline in revenue for the quarter.

It is a significant drop compared to the previous quarter's loss of 584,000 customers, many of which Vodafone said at the time were simply inactive SIMs that the company had purged in that quarter following an audit.

The company's customer base stands at 5 million as of the end of 2013, representing a loss of 2.5 million customers in the last three years, stemming back to the company's 3G network issues in 2010 before it invested billions of dollars in overhauling the 3G network and rolling out 4G across five Australian metropolitan areas.

Outgoing CEO Bill Morrow has said that he believes 2014 will be the beginning of the turnaround for the Vodafone business, with net additions to the company's mobile customer base expected to start this year. Vodafone's general manager for corporate affairs, Karina Keisler, said in a statement that this next stage of Vodafone's recovery would see the work put in over the last two years pay off.

"Under Bill's leadership, Vodafone has embarked on a three-year turnaround which has transformed our business. As we enter the final stage of what has been an intensive period for the brand, we see these results as encouraging and demonstrative that our hard work and network investments are beginning to pay off," Keisler said in a statement.

Although the company doesn't break down the customer base between prepaid and post-paid, Vodafone told ZDNet earlier this month that it recorded net positive additions for its post-paid base for November and December on the back of its new Red plans, and its generous double data offerings in the final two months of the year.

Last week, Vodafone announced that it has over 1 million active services on its 4G network.

Today's reporting represents Morrow's final before leaving the company in late March to head up NBN Co. Vodafone Romania's CEO Inaki Berroeta will start as the company's new CEO in March.

Optus and Telstra are due to report to market next Thursday.

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