Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief executive Inaki Berroeta says improving customer satisfaction, launching tailored mobile plans and gearing up for the next generation of 5G mobile services will be top priorities for the year ahead.
Mr Berroeta nominated 2018 as a turning point for Vodafone Australia as the national broadband network gains scale across the country.
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Berroeta said slashing customer complaint levels through increased automation, preparing for fixed-line broadband products and 5G mobile services were his priorities.
The company was playing a major role in changing the price and profile of mobile customers. It is expected to continue rebounding with subscriber and revenue growth over the next 12 months, raising pressure on and potentially reducing profit margins for rivals Telstra and Singtel-Optus.
Mr Berroeta, who is nearing his second anniversary as Vodafone chief, was appointed in March 2014 when the telco was part way through a three-year transformation to make it profitable and win back customers after network failures resulted in more than two million customers quitting.
"We've spent a couple of years upgrading and improving our infrastructure," Mr Berroeta said. "We haven't stopped and … the pace at which we continue to improve our network remains and the reason for that is because we're already looking into 5G.
"I think that by 2020 we will have 5G in Australia. We're aiming for that."
5G is designed to deliver download speeds of up to 10 gigabit a per second with almost no signal delay to allow driverless cars.Mr Berroeta predicted that Australia's telecommunications market would benefit from the $56 billion NBN finally reaching sufficient scale and said his telco would most likely play a part.
"The reality is by 2018 the NBN will be reaching about 10 million households and that is something that represents a significant shift in this market," he said. "2018 … is going to be a milestone. That is a year when we will see quite a bit of change in the fixed broadband market.
"We at Vodafone need to be looking into what that represents for our customers."
Vodafone Australia last month had its 2020 strategic plan approved by joint-owners Vodafone Group and Hutchison Whampoa.
Mr Berroeta signed a partnership with TPG Telecom last year to connect its fibre-optic cable network with his mobile phone cell towers. He also said it was possible to partner with TPG's brands to launch a landline broadband service but would not provide any timelines.
TPG has its own low-cost service but also bought premium broadband brand company iiNet for $1.56 billion in 2015. This would allow Vodafone to offer bundled package services that boost customer loyalty and properly compete against Telstra and Singtel-Optus.
Vodafone Australia is planning to launch new global roaming plans later this month. It will also change the amount it spends in traditional advertising channels to focus more funding on social media and targeted personalised ads.
Mr Berroeta said the company finished the year with 3.5 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman per 10,000 customers and would aim to slash that even further through self-service options like the MyVodafone app.
Around 50 per cent of Vodafone Australia subscribers use the MyVodafone app to help themselves with the company aiming to boost this to more than 70 per cent over the next 12 months.
This will help reduce costs, allow the telco to redirect call centre staff to other tasks and boost satisfaction levels because customers generally prefer to avoid phoning in with problems.
The telco will also continue targeting the small to medium business market with dedicated mobile plans and sales teams – a strategy it launched in June 2015.
"The results we have seen in the past six months for small to medium businesses have also been impressive and it opens the way for us to continue even further [this] year," he said. "We also need to become a much more segmented company in terms of looking at different Australians."
This would result in highly personalised plans that were relevant for groups like students, farmers or families, he said.