iPhone 5 driving Telstra customers to 4G

Telstra said 4G take-up has been going well, driven by the use of dongles and the iPhone 5

Telstra is trying to migrate as many customers as possible to its 4G network because it’s a cheaper way to carry data, Telstra CEO David Thodey, told an analyst briefing announcing the company's half-year results.

Thodey said Telstra was pleased with 4G take-up so far, which is helping to take pressure off its 3G network.

“If we can get more people across to 4G – unquestionably it’s a better return for us and so we’re going to keep working on that, but we also have a big investment program on the mobile networks because we are very committed to really driving that technology leadership,” he said.

Thodey said 4G sales have largely been driven by dongles in the business market, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors, and the 4G-compatible iPhone 5, with a strong take-up of higher-end plans for the Apple phone.

“If we were getting iPhone 5s on sub-$50 plans, we’d say ‘Hey, this doesn’t look attractive’. But the actual returns on the plans, even though they’re a bigger cash cost upfront, are actually very strong,” he said.

However, Thodey said the telco was not yet seeing any significant impact on average revenue per user (ARPU) for the phone.

“We’ve had a good take-up of high-end plans, but the ARPU’s not significantly different yet, from what I can see – a little bit up, which is looking good, but it’s not $10 up yet,” he said.

Telstra reported a postpaid handheld ARPU decline of 7.1 per cent to $58.88 for the six months to 31 December, 2012.

Meanwhile, prepaid handheld ARPU increased by 6.1 per cent to $17.79.

Thodey also pointed towards international roaming as a growing issue for the telco, with mobile roaming volumes down.

“The changing dynamics in the mobile business [are] less about voice and more about the mobile data of roaming and how we manage that going forward,” he said.

“I think the expectations of people are enormous in terms of using a tablet when you travel now. Then when you come back a lot of you would be aware of bill shock, and so how do we get something that is reflecting the cost that we’ve got to incur when dealing with other operators when you’re roaming, but also allows us to give a good experience and a reasonable price for our consumers?

“It’s a tough one, but I think we’ve got some ideas going forward that will address that.”

Telstra not considering a Coalition NBN

Telstra is working to current contracts for the National Broadband Network (NBN), with Thodey reluctant to speculate on what might happen to the network and the Telstra contract with NBN Co if the Coalition win the next election.

Thodey said he was unable to comment on the issue due to the variables in what a change of government could mean.

“I could think of about another 30 questions to ask about that and it just isn’t of value because you just get into speculation,” he said.

“There’s contractual commitments that will stand. There are some variable ones in there that depend on the rollout of [the] NBN. That’s all that you can work with and you have as much information as I have, really.

“Are we totally apolitical in what we do? Absolutely.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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