Presenting the results on Wednesday, VHA chief executive Iñaki Berroeta used the word "challenging" several times while listing what he saw as the ups and downs of the 2018 year.
He said the company had passed six million mobile customers and its fledgling NBN division, which kicked off in April last year, had now attracted 33,000 subscribers.
The mobile market was a tough one, Berroeta said, pointing out that the cost of a gigabyte had fallen to about $1 from about $7 in 2016.
- The mobile customer base grew by 211,000 to 6.02 million, a 3.6% increase year-on-year;
- The telco had a fixed customer base of 33,000 following the launch of its NBN plans in April 2018;
- Total revenue increased 5.5% year-on-year to $3.6 billion;
- EBITDA increased 13.4% year-on-year to $1.1 billion;
- ARPU was $35.52, a decrease of 4.4% year-on-year from $37.16;
- It gained the Leading Net Promoter Score among MNOs;
- Loss decreased 30.0% year-on-year to $124.4 million.
Berroeta said no plans had yet been finalised for the company's 5G rollout. VHA has used equipment from Huawei in its 4G set-up and the Chinese firm is now banned from supplying gear for 5G networks.
Given this, he could not provide any indication of the capital expenditure expended on the rollout.
He did say, however, that he saw 5G as more of a mobile play, rather than fixed wireless, adding that little action was expected this year and most of the 5G action would occur from next year onwards.
Regarding the propsed merger with TPG, Berroeta said: “If we’re going to continue to see consumers benefit from improved technology and better value plans, there needs to be an even stronger third player with the scale to increase investment.
“With the next generation of mobile network just around the corner, there’s never been a more important time to ensure Australia has effective 5G mobile competition.”
TPG had plans for its own mobile network but dropped them due to the Huawei ban. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said it will give a final ruling on the proposed merger on 28 March.
Acting chief financial officer Sean Crowley said that while VHA’s financial position continued to improve incrementally year on year, it was still a loss-making business due to historical losses from the network and ongoing significant capital and spectrum costs.
“Despite the loss position, we’re proud to continue to invest heavily in our network and great value plans, and it’s especially pleasing that over six million customers are now enjoying the VHA mobile network,” he said.
“In 2018, we added 211,000 customers to our mobile base, with growth driven by increases in postpaid, prepaid and MVNO partner segments.
“We are also pleased to have around 33,000 customers using Vodafone NBN and taking advantage of Instant Connect and 4G back-up via the VHA mobile network.”