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New market share data shows rise of MVNOs Featured

A new analyst group has entered the Australian mobile phone research market. The firm’s first lot of data shows a sharp rise in usage of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

Research company Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, which has long published global mobile phone market share data, has published its first set of local figures, which compares market shares for mobile suppliers as at 30 June 2014 compared to a year earlier. It shows a big rise in the number of people using MVNOs. All MVNOs resell the Optus or Telstra networks.

The research measures market share (percentage) for the three carriers who have their own networks – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone (Vodafone Hutchison Australia, or VHA) – and for MVNOs that have more than 1% market share. It is limited to people aged 16 or over, and to a person’s primary network supplier if they use more than one. It also measures voice services only, not data dongles.

The data shows that Telstra is easily market leader, with 40.2% (slightly down for 40,4% a year earlier). Optus is second with 20.9% (21.1%) and Vodafone third with 18.7% (16.7%).

Telstra and Optus both saw a slight improvement in their prepaid market share and a slight decline in their postpaid share. Vodafone saw a decline in both, but performed relatively better in postpaid.

Kantar says there is a market trend towards prepaid. It does not separate the sizes of the two markets, but from the weighting of the relative percentages we can work prepaid is about 60%of the market and growing.

Similarly, even though Kantar does not translate its percentages into numbers, we can roughly work these out from customer figures published by the carriers. There are some comparison issues, but roughly speaking each percentage point of the total market translates into 150,000 users, each percentage point of the prepaid market translates into about 90,000 users, and each percentage point of the postpaid market translates into about 60,000 users.

Fully 14% of Vodafone’s prepaid customers have switched to other networks since June 2013, largely to Telstra). Its downward trend in the postpaid sector is smaller by comparison. This decline is largely in accord with numbers published by VHA’s 50/50 joint owners Hutchison and Vodafone.

“A key trend in the data in both prepaid and postpaid is the strengthening of MVNOs, who have seen their total share grow from 13.2% in June 2013 to 15.6% in June 2014,” said Kantar’s euphonically named Tamsin Timpson. “This share rises to 20% in the prepaid market.

“MVNO Amaysim is now very well established but still growing in prepaid and, with the highest satisfaction rating and a share of 7.3%, is bigger than Virgin Mobile in prepaid (with customers largely switching from either Vodafone or Optus).”

The customer satisfaction data is not publicly published by Kantar – it sells this information to the carriers.

“Another high growth MVNO is Aldi Mobile,” said Timson,”which in the space of 18 months has secured a share of prepaid customers of nearly 4%, with almost as many customers switching from Telstra as from Vodafone, despite a sharp drop in its customer satisfaction.”

That drop was most probably caused by its hiccup last year when it moved from failed wholesaler ispONE to Telstra.

Timpson says customers of MVNOs are generally smartphone users who own their phones, who are “highly engaged” with them and are attracted to straightforward plans which offer good value and large data allowances without the longer term commitment of  postpaid plans.


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.


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