• NextG covers 99% of the Australian population, but with a far wider geographical footprint to other providers
• Australia’s largest and fastest network
• Operates on 850MHz for current high speed mobile broadband, with rollout in major capital cities for even higher speeds on 1800MHz network
Telstra is the largest mobile network provider in Australia, with 12.2 million customers. A wide range of prepaid and cap plans, on a SIM only basis or with a mobile phone, are on offer. Plans are generally more expensive than the competition, though less so recently, with a shift towards simplified Freedom Connect plans. Telstra strives for network integrity, and so usually offers fewer gigabytes per dollar. While this might look like poorer value to many customers, it also means it keeps away high bandwidth users who often slow down the network. Telstra boasts a reputation for excellent speed, reliability and coverage compared to its rivals, and this is due to a combination of technology, infrastructure and engineering. To date, Telstra has not wholesaled its mobile phone network.
• growing LTE (Long Term Evolution) network that aims to offer true mobile broadband speeds of 42Mbps+
• Offers good deals and equipment (ie. modems) when bundled
• Access to Mobile Foxtel
• Historically a poor provider of customer service, despite premium price tag (though this has been steadily improving)
• Free content rarely ‘baked in’ to plans, paid services are heavily pushed
• Difficult to obtain any service without bundling or long contracts
Telstra is Australia’s incumbent telecommunications provider, meaning that it is the privatized descendant of a government built and operated network. Telstra went into its first stage of privatization in 1997, when the government decoupled one third of the business and listed it on the Australian Stock Exchange. As of 2009, the firm is wholly private, with the single largest owner of shares being the Australian government Future Fund, with a 10% stake. Telstra maintained wholesale control of the Copper Access Network (CAN) which it must lease to retailers, while remaining responsible for its upkeep and maintenance.
From the start of its life as private operator, Telstra has promoted itself as a bulwark of quality and reliability, compared to low-cost, “fly-by-night” operators. Its primary competition has come from Optus, Australia’s second-largest telco. Optus has traditionally positioned itself as a more affordable and forward-facing provider, with more emphasis on mobiles and internet services to appeal to a younger generation.
Telstra has suffered a steep decline in market share across all of their businesses in the period 2009 – 2011, eventually leading to the departure of former CEO Sol Trujillo and a new direction under CEO David Thodey. The share price has recovered recently, though none of the three investment packages (T1, T2 and T3) have succeeded in exceeding their initial share price offering. They are held onto by investors for their generous yearly dividend.
In 2009, Telstra began a government mandated separation of its wholesale and retail businesses, to avoid lockout from future spectrum and technology auctions. The separation is still underway, and is expected to rush to completion with the introduction of the National Broadband Network in 2012.
Revenue from mobile operations for FY 2010/2011 was reported as $8.1 billion, about a third of their overall revenue of $25 billion. Profit was estimated at $1 billion, far below expectations. This is despite a big 16% increase in market share, thanks to a heavily publicized collapse in Vodafone network reliability, sparking an exodus. The reduced profit might be explained by efforts to make their plans more affordable while simultaneously increasing capacity and building a more robust 1800MHz network. Telstra currently boasts 12.2 million mobile customers, or 50% of the mobile market.
Future plans and development
Telstra has been repositioning itself as a friendlier, more customer-service oriented provider of late. This includes a simplification of plans, reduced prices and greater value, and simplified bills. These small changes are allowing customers to feel good about taking advantage of Telstra’s superior infrastructure, without having to pay a “Telstra Tax”. With the introduction of the National Broadband Network, Telstra will eventually jettison the wholesale business, which currently brings in steady revenue when charging other retailers to rent copper lines. This will result in a very quick repositioning as a smaller, retail only company, and might trigger the abandonment of other large-scale infrastructure, including their own fibre-optic network. Telstra remains a clear leader in mobile, and it is unlikely they will offer their mobile network on a wholesale basis to other providers.