JPMorgan had predicted 77,000 new mobile broadband customers would come to market in the first half of the year ending June 30, but in the end the net result was a loss, with 124,000 leaving the market.

Telstra suffered the heaviest losses, losing 170,000 mobile broadband customers. This loss was partly offset by Optus, which added 46,000 mobile broadband customers.

Mr Pan said the fall in mobile broadband customers could be linked to the rise in postpaid mobile plan data packages, which was driving customers to tether laptops to their phones rather than have a separate dongle plan. Mobile broadband plans generate low ARPU, meaning the loss was not a serious as the raw numbers might suggest.

Telstra dominated postpaid

Telstra remaineds the leading provider in the postpaid market, as it added 239,000 new post-paid mobile customers in the first half, its highest rate of growth in six years and double what JPMorgan analysts predicted. Half of those new customers came through Belong, which launched its first mobile plan in late 2017.

Telstra picked up 42.3 per cent of new post-paid customers, up almost six percentage points on the year-earlier period. Its total post-paid market share is now 47.4 per cent.

Optus also smashed analysts’ expectations, adding a net 222,000 post-paid customers, compared with JPMorgan’s expected 186,000. However, Mr Pan said much of this figure came from Optus shifting customers to from prepaid to postpaid plans.

Vodafone was the big loser. It added just 22,000 postpaid subscribers in the six-month period, 3,000 fewer than JPMorgan had predicted.

Telstra now has a 46.5 per cent share of the total mobile subscriber market. Optus has 24.8 per cent and Vodafone has 17.4 per cent.

Mobile has become the main earner for companies like Optus and Telstra, which are increasingly struggling to make money out of their fixed line businesses as the roll out of the NBN approaches completion.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn has repeatedly complained his company is making no margin out of reselling NBN plans.

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