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Vodafone Q1 subs show modest growth

But down in the UK, Netherlands

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Vodafone Group Plc, the world's second largest mobile phone operator, yesterday published key performance indicators for the quarter ended June 30, featuring slightly higher average revenue per user in its core markets, increased revenue contribution from data services, and modest overall growth of subscriber numbers.

In the quarter ended June 30, Vodafone said it added 1.4 million to its net global proportionate subscriber base bringing it to 103.9 million. The biggest contribution to this growth came from its Asia Pacific operations, where J-Phone Ltd added 301,000 new subscribers, and the regional as a whole grew its subscriber population by 509,000 to 13.3 million.

Southern Europe, led by Vodafone Omnitel in Italy, which added 204,000 subscribers, increased overall by 425,000 to 24.5 million. Verizon Wireless in the US added 324,000 subscribers, helping the Americas region grow by 395,000 overall to 13.8 million.

Vodafone's Central Europe operations also achieved positive subscriber growth, adding 21,000 in the quarter to reach 23.3 million overall, even though Vodafone Germany lost some 90,000 subscribers in the quarter. Vodafone's operators in the UK and the Netherlands also recorded negative subscriber growth, marking their proportionate total down by 177,000 and 4,000 respectively, which dragged the overall figure for Northern Europe down by 64,000 to 23 million.

In its summary of the KPI numbers, Vodafone said that the negative subscriber growth was partially due to "the necessary and expected disconnection ... of non-revenue earning handsets." This essentially refers to prepaid subscriptions that had shown no activity for some time. Vodafone, unlike many of its competitors, does not depend on prepaid subscribers for the bulk of its customer base, but it is still keen to grow the proportion of contract subscribers, who tend to make a much higher average contribution to revenue.

This push to grow the contract subscriber base is one part of the drive to grow ARPU. Another is the effort to encourage subscribers to access non-voice data services, from their handsets. In the last quarter, Vodafone claimed to have achieved the "expected uplift" in ARPU in key markets, although overall this trend was slight at best.

Monthly ARPU between April 2001 and last month in Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK does not really show a clear growth trend. In Germany in June 2001, ARPU was 25 euros ($24.53), achieved a peak of 27 euros ($26.50) in May 2002, and slipped back to 26 euros ($25.52) in June.

Italian ARPU in June last year was 30 euros ($29.44) dipped to 26 euros in February and came back to 29 euros ($28.46) last month. June, 2001 ARPU in the UK was 22 pounds ($34.39), achieved a peak of 25 pounds ($39.08) in May, and slipped back to 23 pounds ($35.95) last month. In Japan, despite the vaunted success of J-Phone's data-oriented services, Vodafone has struggled to achieve consistent ARPU. J-Phone achieved ARPU of JPY 7,700 ($64.33) in June last year, but has since seen ARPU peak at JPY 8,100 ($67.68) in August last year, before slipping back to JPY 7,200 ($60.16) last month.

Rather unhelpfully, what ARPU progress it has seen is described by Vodafone as due largely to "increasing activity levels", which means subscribers making more calls, and not just growth in premium/data service access. However, some progress in non-voice services was recorded. The proportionate group total for data in revenue was 10.9% in June 2002, compared to 6.6% in the same month last year.

The great bulk of this June 2002 data figure, accounting for 8.4% total revenue, stemmed from messaging services, with internet data traffic still accounting for only 2.5% of the total.

© ComputerWire

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