Analysis: LIVE BLOG: 2degrees claims 206,000 active customers

Mobile newcomer 2degrees is claiming 206,000 active customers, giving it around 4.5% of the mobile market.

The telco launched its service six months ago today.

Chief executive Eric Hertz said that by active, the company meant any customer who had paid for a call in the past 30 days.

Of 2degrees customers, 50,000 had brought a Telecom or Vodafone number with them. 80% had ported from Vodafone, said Mr Hertz.

No regional breakdown was given.

Unsurprisingly, given 2degrees' all-prepay service, the vast majority of customers were consumers rather than business, although no official split was offered.

Mr Hertz did not give a timetable for 2degrees' pending 3G upgrade, beyond the previously stated sometime this year. The upgrade would help push 2degrees into the business market.

The 206,000 figure does not include the 75,000 promo sim cards sent out at 2degrees' August launch unless one of those customers has paid for a call within the past 30 days said Mr Hertz.

Vodafone NZ recently reported a gain of 9000 customers for its December quarter, and Telecom earlier today said it had a net gain of 60,000 for the same period.

With all boats rising, it seems that many New Zealanders are packing more than one sim card, and sometimes with more than one company.

Under this scenario, Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds told earlier today that arpu (average revenue per user) was the key metric, revealing "the real level of business". XT arpu was up 19% in the latest quarter, including contract customers.

Mr Hertz would not reveal 2degrees' arpu, but said it was "many times higher" than Telecom's prepay arpu of $10.

There had been an uptick in interest in 2degrees following XT's outage, said the chief executive. However it was in the order of "hundreds rather than thousands".

Asked by NBR where he saw 2degrees in the New Zealand market in ten years time, Mr Hertz said there was no reason his company could not be the number two player.

Vodafone currently has Vodafone has around 2.49 million customers, not including its MVNO customers such as TelstraClear (which has around 30,000); Telecom has around 2.31 million.

See the live blog below for more on today's announcement.

After the Q&A, I asked 2degrees regulator officer Bill McCabe about the regional spread of 2degrees' 206,000 customers. He said the telco will not reveal any specific figures, but that it pretty much follows population spread.

Mr McCabe said domestic roaming business was "good" (2degrees has agreements with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison, plus others further afield) but would not put any numbers on it.

2degrees now offers pre-pay roaming to 40 countries, including Australia, the US and the UK, and today introduced a new 22 cents a minute plan for calls to China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and India.

1.01pm: Question from NBR: 10 years down the road, there's no reason we can't be a very serious contender. Haven't seen yet in New Zealand is the move from fixed line to mobile that we've seen elsewhere. Overseas its often 50%, in NZ it's around one third. The transition will bring new revenue into the market. "There's no reason can't be number two player in this market."

12.59pm: Question: will 3G data be cheaper than 50 cents/megabyte 2.5G data today. Hertz: Yes: data pricing today for the casual user. Data sticks will be part of 3G rollout

12.56pm: Hertz: 206,000 does not include the 75,000 promo sims sent out at launch unless one of those customers has paid for a call within the past 30 days.

12.50pm: Question - see any uptick in interest during XT outage? Hertz: some. "Hundreds, not thousands".

12.45pm: Any updated timetable for 3G upgrade? Hertz repeats that it will be sometime this year. 

12.43pm: Hertz: "active" means making a call or text in the past 30 days.

12.41pm: Hertz: 50,000 have ported from Telecom or Vodafone; about 80% from Vodafone.

12.39pm: Question from NBR: With all three mobile networks claiming customer ads, and crossover between companies and devices, Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds said today that arpu (average revenue per user) is the figure that reveals real business. Hertz responds: 2degrees arpu is "substantially above" Telecom's pre-pay arpu of $10. Won't comment if is higher or lower than Vodafone's prepay arpu of $20.

12.37pm: Hertz: 206,000 people "actively using and paying for 2degrees". [This works out to nearly 4.5% of NZ's 4.7 million mobile connections, as counted by the Commerce Commission. Most analysts had expected 2degrees to achieve 100,000 after its first year. It's done it in six months; Telecom added 60,000 users in its December quarter, Vodafone added 9000].

12.35pm: Hertz says 2degrees has 262 staff in NZ, and local call centre.

12.32pm: Chief executive Eric Hertz thanks recently diluted shareholder Hautaki, and controlling shareholder, US investor Trilogy.

12.29pm: TV, radio and print hacks fill a room at Auckland's Crowne Plaza hotel, waiting for 2degrees to reveal its number of mobile customers.

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