Vodafail bites bottom line, customer base

The telco loses 375,000 customers so far this year

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has reported a loss of 375,000 customers so far this year, following customer service and network issues.

VHA said that 347,000 of these customers came from its prepaid and mobile broadband service, as well as users of other mobile companies that ran on the Vodafone Hutchinson network, known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO); the remaining 28,000 were post-paid customers.

The telco, a 50:50 joint venture between Hutchison Telecommunications Australia (ASX:HTA) and Vodafone Group, revealed its total customer base stood at 7.2 million — 61.4 per cent of which were on post-paid plans — in its half-year briefing for the six months ended 30 June, 2011.

Hutchison Telecommunications Australia reported a net loss of $78.2 million in the first half of the year.

"The network and customer service issues that affected some customers in late 2010 and the early part of 2011, combined with a highly competitive mobile market, has had an impact of Vodafone's sales and retention," HTA’s briefing on its half-yearly results said.

Thousands of Vodafone customers voiced their complaints about dropped calls, poor reception and slow data transfers at the end of last year.

As a result, HTA’s chairperson, Canning Fok, said in a statement that VHA has “moved quickly” to repair network issues and “improve customer service performance”, with the telco recently wrapping up a three-month network upgrade, involving the installation of new mobile equipment at 49 sites across Newcastle, parts of the Central Coast, and the Hunter.

Earlier this month the telco announced it will upgrade its network in Canberra to enable delivery of 2G, 3G and 4G technologies from a single base station by mid 2012, with 815 sites already upgraded on the existing 2G and 3G networks. By the end of the year, the telco is also expected to upgrade another 515 sites and built 500 new network sites.

“Our focus on network and service improvements is having a positive impact on customers and operationally, we have turned the corner,” said Nigel Dews, VHA chief executive, in a statement.

With additional reporting by AAP.

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