A telecommunications industry expert says Telstra risks losing customers to rivals Optus and Vodafone and if it cannot sort out a deal to offer Apple’s hot new 3G iPhone, due to be released in Australia on 11 July.
Optus has already started taking pre-orders for the iPhone, but Telstra customers are being kept in the dark concerning the company’s plans for the new gadget.
Telstra has refused to comment on its specific iPhone plans, but it does appear to be working on some sort of deal. “Telstra is the market leader in mobiles, and we aim to stay that way… while not commenting on our plans specifically; watch this space,” a spokesman says.
Telstra has been dismissive of the iPhone in the past, with technology boss Greg Winn commenting last year that Apple should “stick to its knitting,” and calling the technology “old hat”.
But Telstra’s grip on the mobile market is uncertain, with its main third-party retailer Fone Zone, which counts for around 20% of Telstra’s business, planning to close 15 of its 140 stores.
Nathan Burley, an analyst with telecommunications research firm Ovum, says if Telstra doesn’t bring out any sort of deal for users, it will potentially lose customers to Vodafone and Optus.
“There’s no doubt that the iPhone would work very well on Telstra’s network. It’s no doubt Telstra would have had a lot to offer customers… unlike Vodafone and Optus which would obviously support 3G only in city areas,” he says. “There’s a potential that Telstra is going to miss out.
“This device is going to be successful, a good number of customers want it,” Burley says. “Optus is going to get some customers from its existing base, and I’m sure it will churn some customers from 3. They will get extra subscribers, I’ve got no doubt.”
Despite yesterday’s announcement the 3G iPhone would sell for $US199, no set price has been announced for the Australian release. Optus is charging a $50 refundable deposit on the new device.
And rural users may be set for disappointment. While Optus and Vodafone have announced they will expand their 3G networks into the 900MHz band, the new iPhone will not carry support for those networks.