VHA eyeing the fixed-broadband market?

Vodafone Hutchison Australia appears to be eyeing the commercial fixed-broadband market. CEO Nigel Dews revealed the wireless carrier’s intended participation in trials with the semi-state National Broadband Network (NBN) at a financial results press conference on Thursday.

Dews stated that VHA’s participation in a trial to sell fixed-line internet carried by the NBN would be underway by the second half of 2011, pending final approval from the NBN.

According to Dews, VHA’s main priority during the trial would be testing the running of NBN fibre to its mobile base stations to improve capacity and speeds while reducing backhaul costs. The company’s “second biggest NBN-related priority” was, however, the running of the fixed-broadband trials with a view to entering that market.

Hutchison told attendees that “The trials are about us learning how to do it, how to work with them with technical interconnections…and how this kind of space could be relevant to us in the future,” adding that, although trials were likely to take place this year, the company would not be commercially active in fixed-line before 2012, if at all. “We’ll see…we think it’s important to be part of these trials to understand this space better,” he said.

The announcement rounds off a week that began with Dews apologising to Vodafone Australia customers for shoddy service and announcing a rip-and-replace hardware strategy that would see Vodafone replacing its NSN and Ericsson kit with Huawei technology. The telco is under huge pressure from competitor Telstra, which has pulled in 900,000 new customers in the past year – almost a third more than VHA.

Dews said that Telstra’s customer gains had come at the price of margins and earnings, stating that VHA’s more modest growth had seen it retain profitability. Total revenue for VHA was $4.8bn, an increase of 18 per cent over the previous year; customer numbers were at 7.58 million, up 9.9 per cent year-on-year.

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