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Old 22-04-2006, 4:29 AM
Afzal Afzal is offline
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MOBILE PHONES|Hutchison's 3G setback

CONSUMERS are struggling to find satisfaction with Hutchison's much-vaunted third-generation mobile phone service.

According to a Nielsen Media survey released yesterday, Hutchison's multibillion-dollar expansion into 3G has scraped in at bottom place on customer satisfaction.

The results come amid red-hot competition in the mobile phone market.

Vodafone topped the poll.

Hutchison spokeswoman Liz Rex declined to comment on the findings from Nielsen Media Research but, as an investment, the Hong-Kong controlled company has been one of the stock market's biggest disappointments.

After peaking in the dotcom era above $5.50, its shares have since flatlined.

The company has bled cash, with its last set of full-year results showing it was $547.3 million in the red - an improvement on the $690.1 million it blew the year before.

Yesterday, the company's shares edged 1c higher to 25c.

Nielsen Media associate director Jody Loughlin said the findings were a "worrying development for the carrier at a time when its major competitors are aggressively entering the 3G market".

He said 3's ratings had deteriorated to about the same point as in mid-2004. However, he said it was not a major concern given Hutchison's market size and that it had proven to be skilled at luring new customers.

"This highlights the new business potential of a truly generational change in mobile network capability," he said.

Virgin Mobile - which Optus recently picked up for just $30 million - also appears to have struck trouble. In terms of customer-retention rate, 37 per cent of Virgin customers want to leave compared with just 21 per cent the year before.

Among Optus customers 36.8 per cent said they were very satisfied, putting it ahead of Telstra at 31.9 per cent.

Telstra spokesman Warwick Ponder was defensive about the company's position. "The December-quarter results are ancient history when it comes to mobiles and technology," he said. "Since that time we have launched exciting new products and offers such as BigPond on mobiles.

The survey, of 6000 people, has been carried out for the past decade but this is the first time its findings have been released publicly.
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