Hutchison, Samsung mobile deal taps user dissent

Hutchison Telecoms' $340-million deal with Samsung Electronics to build Australia's fourth mobile network is set to leverage growing user frustration with existing mobile service operators.

Alan Horsley, managing director of the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), said the majority of users' complaints focus on poor quality of service on existing mobile networks.

"There would be maybe half a million frustrated GSM users who are sick of congestion and drop outs," Horsley said.

Hutchison last week awarded Samsung a contract to build a CDMA-based mobile telecommunications network between Sydney and Melbourne, scheduled to be completed by March 2000.

Horsley said Hutchison's network will be technically similar to Telstra's CDMA mobile network due to come on line by the third quarter in 1999.

However, Hutchison has the opportunity to offer better call quality and value-added services, but must begin promoting its services early in 1999 to get a foothold in the market, he said.

A Vodafone spokesperson commenting on the new network told Network World Today the company does not believe it will have a significant impact on its existing mobile service operations.

"Vodafone always welcomes competition because it keeps all the players in the market on the ball," he said. "It's not easy starting off as a new entrant...but we've shown it can be done."

Meanwhile, Hutchison itself is planning to leverage the Samsung partnership on the marketing front, with Barry Roberts-Thomson, Hutchison's CEO and managing director, describing the deal as "the most modern and innovative telecommunications network we have seen."

Hutchison reports it chose Samsung for its experience in CDMA technology and will use the company to provide ongoing technical and maintenance support once the network is built.

Hutchison currently has around 300,000 customers across its paging, cellular, Internet and wireline product areas.

Both Telstra and Optus did not return calls from Network World Today requesting comment on the deal by deadline.

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