Vodafone rejects Conroy's 4G user sledge: We have a million

Vodafone Australia has rejected a claim by former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the company boasts the fastest 4G network because it has no customers.
Written by Josh Taylor on

Australia's third-largest mobile network operator Vodafone has rejected a sledge from former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the company has no customers on its 4G network, confirming that it now has over 1 million on the network since the launch in June last year.

Last week, an independent test of the 4G networks of Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone found that in Sydney and Melbourne, Vodafone has the fastest download speeds on its 4G network.

The report led to former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy launching yet another attack on the company, claiming that it could only boast about the result because of its lack of customers.

"So maybe Vodafone has the fastest 4G network—probably because it has got no customers!," Conroy said at an NBN Senate Committee hearing in Perth on Wednesday.

Vodafone was the last of the major telcos to launch 4G, and it came as the company looked to stop bleeding customers to the other two mobile operators after almost three years of network issues stemming back to 2010.

As of the end of September, which is the last time Vodafone reported its customer numbers to the market, the company had lost a total of 2.5 million customers since 2010, and saw its mobile customer base decline from 7.5 million to just over 5 million.

At the last set of results, Vodafone claimed that around 400,000 of the SIMs deactivated were as a result of an audit of inactive SIMs, and ZDNet can reveal that in November and December, Vodafone saw its months of customer growth for post-paid in three years.

Today, Vodafone's chief marketing officer Kim Clarke said that 1 million of its customers are now using 4G devices on the 4G network, with the company getting around 30,000 new devices on its 4G network every week.

"As much as some detractors joke about Vodafone's well-known network issues in 2010, the fact is in 2014, Vodafone's networks, both 3G and 4G, are offering consistent fast, reliable data speeds right around the country," Clarke said.

Comparatively, Optus reported at the end of September that it had 1.37 million 4G handsets on its network — the company has not yet disclosed mobile broadband sales — while Telstra reported that as of October, the company had 3.2 million 4G devices on its network.

Telstra boasts the largest 4G network, reaching 85 percent of the population at the end of 2013. Vodafone currently reaches the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.

Conroy's criticism is not the first he has laid at the feet of Vodafone. In early 2013, when he was still the minister for communications, he rejected Vodafone's call for the government to stop paying Telstra universal service obligation payments, and compared the company's American-born CEO Bill Morrow unfavourably to Telstra's most controversial CEO Sol Trujillo.

"They lost 750,000 customers due to poor service and they want to lecture to everybody, they want to cut those people off. They are doing a good enough job of that themselves," he allegedly said.

"We haven't seen another telco CEO act like this since Sol Trujillo."

Morrow has since been picked by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to become the new CEO of the government-owned NBN Co.


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