Vodafone loses 37,000 Irish mobile customers despite global pick-up
Vodafone lost 37,000 Irish mobile customers in the first three months of the year and 110,000 over the last 12 months, according to its most recent set of financial results.
However, the company, which remains Ireland's largest mobile player with two million customers and 38pc market share here, gained 7,000 landline customers in the quarter to bring its fixed line customer base to 282,000.
While Irish revenue fell 2.6pc to €936m, Vodafone's international group revenue posted a modest rise in its quarterly sales measurement for the first time in nearly three years.
Analysts say the world's second largest mobile operator is well placed to take advantage of an economic recovery in Europe.
However Vodafone, which recently embarked on a fresh €225m fibre broadband investment here, continues to face a challenging time in the Irish mobile market as data-hungry customers go looking for cheaper deals from rival operators.
The company says some divisions are performing well here. Its 'enterprise customer revenue' grew 4pc thanks to deals with companies like Ryanair.
The operator says that it is investing €550m in its networks over the next three years, including its planned €225m fibre broadband joint venture with the ESB, called Siro.
And it says its 4G network now covers 90pc of the Irish population while data usage on Vodafone's overall mobile network grew by 77pc over the last year, roughly in line with its international data growth performance.
However, it continues to leak customers to rivals offering more data, despite the introduction of new data-centric packages.
While its 1.1 million prepaid customers can get 5GB per month on some tariffs, rivals routinely offer 10GB or 15GB for the same price.
Earlier this week, Eircom announced it had gained 13,000 mobile customers over the last 12 months and that mobile revenue for the nine months to the end of March was marginally higher at €265m. The mobile division of Eircom, comprising Meteor and eMobile, now has just over 1m customers.
The most recent accounts of Vodafone's main mobile rival, 3 Ireland, show the Hong Kong-owned operator moved into profit and boosted revenue and subscriber numbers before its €850m acquisition of O2 Ireland. Vodafone's main European rivals, including Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica, have also recently posted results showing signs of commercial recovery after several years of decline.
Big mobile operators have been hit hard by the constraints on consumer spending in major European markets as well as competition and regulator-imposed price cuts.
Vodafone, which has 446m mobile customers in countries ranging from Ireland and India to South Africa and New Zealand, posted a 6pc growth rate from the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific division.
Overall, its European revenue improved over the previous quarter, with a 2.4pc fall compared with the 2.7pc fall in the previous quarter.
"We have seen increasing signs of stabilisation in many of our European markets, supported by improvements in our commercial execution and very strong demand for data," said Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao, pictured.