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Hutchison 3G Australia forced to juice the Orange

February 2, 2006
My old employer here in Australia, Hutchison 3G Australia, must be feeling like they are in the last stages of a high stakes chess game and having to back their King into a corner, whilst switching to playing a defensive strategy with their latest news about closing down the the older Orange network and brand.
 
Unfortunately, the latest move of announcing the migration of Orange customers onto their 3G network will come at a large cost, both in loss of subscribers and financially. Migrating happy & content Orange customers will awaken them to rethink what options are open to them and may see Hutchison loosing as much as 30% of them.
 
The Telco chess game has been fiercely fought since Hutchison’s 3G launch in 2003. Hutchison held ground extremely well against the entrenched Telcos early on and played a very decisive offensive game. Hutchison made a lot of strategic wins early on, like creating & establishing a strong marketable brand early, eradicating various network issues quickly, launching aggresive pricing plans and then signing a 50/50 JV network share agreement with the largest telco in the country was an exceptional "check" move on their part.
 
The initial ground taken on the board was slowed considerably as their competition deployed their own 3G networks taking away the technology edge.
 
Then in one crippling move from their JV partner, Telstra had Hutchison bewildered as to where to move next. Telstra announced that they were replacing their country wide CDMA network with a competeing 3G one (same WCDMA technology as Hutchison’s but at a different incompatible frequency). That meant that Hutchison’s Orange CDMA customers, who currently roam to Telstra’s network, would loose a large coverage area that was available to them and secondly means that existing 3G WCDMA customers loose a potential roaming partner (Hutchison 3G customers will have to continue to roam to the slower Telstra 2.5G network).
 
This recent announcement & Hutchison not making their subscriber numbers for 2005, shows that Hutchison is being forced into consolidating their cost infrastucture and banking that the "3" brand will help them to survive this very aggressive game.
 
At this stage, I would not discount them from becoming one of the top 3 players in the Australian market, but it is going to take a while longer than originally planned for them to achieve this.
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