Vodafone has raised the stakes in Australia’s mobile retail sector by revealing a plan to build-out a dealer network into specific regional markets. Australian IT reports that the operator is planning to grow its retail network to around 400 – about 100 more than market-leader Telstra – using an ‘owner operator’ rather than franchisee model. In an interview, Steve Bannigan, Vodafone Australia’s commercial operations general manager, said the operator is planning to have 100 such dealer stores up and running in 18 months providing it finds “quality” owner-operators. “The difference between these dealers and our employees is that these operators will be embedded in the community,” Bannigan said. “We’re targeting these stores at very specific community areas.” He added that the operator would contribute about 80 percent of start-up costs at the new dealer shops, an average of AUD60,000 (US$45,000) per store. Vodafone already has around 300 retail outlets in place, a mixture of its own-branded stores and ‘Crazy John’s’ stores, the retail chain in which it has a stake, the report says.
Vodafone’s move comes at a time of increasing competition in the Australian market, especially in some of the country’s previously difficult-to-serve rural areas. Australia’s operators are also well advanced in rolling out their HSPA networks across all parts of the country. Telstra launched its ‘Next G’ HSPA network in 2006 and now claims to cover 99 percent of the country’s population. Rival operators Optus and Vodafone have both also announced plans to provide full HSPA coverage by the end of this year.