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We're faster than Telstra, Optus, but we won't brag: Vodafone

Vodafone believes its 3G and 4G networks outpace those of its rivals, but given how badly it has performed in the past, its CEO doesn't believe it's right to brag about it to its customers.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

At a media briefing in North Sydney on Tuesday, Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow said that the company's Australian 3G speeds are above Optus' and on par with Telstra's, while its 4G speeds are above both of its competitors.

The data used to back Morrow's claims comes from Android devices that used the Ookla Speedtest. There were no details given as to the sample size, or actual speed figures made available, although Morrow said these could be purchased from Ookla.

Specific to the 4G side, Morrow said that the launch of its network, albeit later than Optus' and Telstra's, was still slightly different due to its use of a contiguous 20MHz channel structure. Morrow said that this gives its network slightly faster speeds than its competitors.

"Neither of our competitors like the fact that we can go out and say we have a 20MHz channel structure and deliver a faster 4G speed."

Eventually, Vodafone's competitors will catch up, however. Morrow said that Telstra's recent purchase in the 700MHz auction would allow it to aggregate enough spectrum to achieve an equivalent 20MHz channel, and, likewise, Optus' would soon be able to do the same.

He also admitted that although there are about 800,000 devices on its 4G network, this does not represent a heavy load. As such, with less congestion, Morrow said that this contributed to higher speeds on the company's network, although as the number of devices increases, top speeds will trend slightly downward.

Both its channel structure and low levels of congestion have led Morrow to believe that Vodafone naturally has a "temporary advantage" in the space, but he also considered that even when this advantage has run its course, it will remain competitive in terms of speed.

Although it has the data to back up its claims, Morrow said that given the company's past failures, it has no right to brag about being better than its competitors. As such, even though it is now launching its largest-ever outdoor advertising campaign, Morrow said it has to do so with an air of humility, knowing it failed customers previously.

"We don't have the credit, the respect enough, to say we are back, we are good, we are this. We have to just ask them to reconsider us. You tell us what you think," he said.

"No cockiness, no arrogance ... we don't have any right to be in that space whatsoever."

The more humble approach to its network capability could also be in response to what it knows about its churn rate: It expects to lose more customers this year. Despite the improvements made to the network and its advertising campaign, Morrow doesn't expect the situation to improve or at least turn towards a form of neutrality until next year.

"You'll see some big numbers," he said, referring to the number of customers he expects to lose in the remainder of this year, but providing a caveat on why that might be.

"It's going to be bigger than the normal run-rate is, because we've cleaned up the accounting. We've had a large number of non-tolling customers."

In the past, Morrow said that Vodafone had sometimes offered customers extra SIM cards with the hope that they would use them and become a paying customer. Other customers, he said, bought a SIM card for emergency purposes, keeping them in their car's glove box or a drawer at home, and it didn't make sense to consider them a paying customer.

"Let's remove those as customers, because they're not bona-fide customers, so we took all of that in the second half of this year."

The figure is also expected to be inflated from the migration of 3 customers to Vodafone. In some cases, 3 customers had their accounts held open because it was a second or third mobile service, Morrow said, and rather than migrating, they were happier to just close the account.

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