Hutchison Telecommunications may be the junior partner in the new VHA joint venture with Vodafone, but its “3” mobile branding will be maintained, CEO Nigel Dews said yesterday.Dews was speaking at a media briefing on Hutch’s Q1 results, which saw the ASX-listed but Hong Kong-controlled telco record a net loss of A$163 million. That mightn’t be good, but it was a whole lot better than Q1 last year when Hutch reported a loss of $285 million.

Contributing to the improved result was major growth in subscriber numbers and revenue, especially in wireless broadband. Customer numbers grew 29 percent, or 458,000, to more than 2 million, Dews said; total revenue grew 23 percent from $1.3 billion in 2007 to $1.62 billion in ’08.

The biggest jump, percentage-wise, came in the number of mobile broadband subscribers at “3”: up 170 percent to 526,000.

However average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) declined. Voice ARPU dropped 3 percent from $68.61 per customer to $66.54; non-voice ARPU dropped more sharply, down 9 percent from $$50.30 to $45.78.

Dews said he expects the overall growth in revenue to continue – unless economic conditions “get a lot worse”.

Network capacity expansion will continue through 2009. The company says it has undertaken additional expansion on fringe areas in and around Sydney and Melbourne.

Dews said 3G roaming access to parts of Telstra’s 850MHz network will be in place during the second quarter of 2009, enabling 3’s customers to experience 3G services in areas covering 96 percent of the population.

On the Vodafone JV, Dews said VHA would adopt Vodafone as its leading brand, but the 3 brand won’t disappear.

“Exactly what we do with the brands is not finalised just yet, but I can tell you that the 3 brand will be around for quite some time yet. It’s been very strong in the marketplace and there’s no reason for it not to continue,” he said.

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