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What’s a Telstra? Who’s Optus? More immigrants choose global brand Vodafone as first Australian mobile provider

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, June to November 2016, sample = 21,309 Australian aged 14+ with a Consumer Pays mobile phone, including 6,090 immigrants.

5.3 million Australian mobile phone owners 14+ weren’t born here—and among these immigrants, international telco Vodafone is the number one service provider, Roy Morgan Research shows.

Over the six months to November 2016, Vodafone claimed 32 percent of the mobile market among immigrants overall—and its lead is strongest among the most recent new arrivals.

Nearly half of immigrants who have lived here for less than two years (and brought or bought a mobile phone) chose Vodafone as their local provider (47 percent). Among these newest arrivals since mid-2014, Vodafone is almost twice as popular as Optus (24 percent), and four times more popular than Telstra (12 percent).

Vodafone’s advantage declines just marginally among immigrants who have lived here for three to five years (46 percent), but falls further among those here for six to 10 years (37 percent) and 11 to 19 years (29 percent). Up until this time, Vodafone remains the most popular provider ahead of both Optus and Telstra.  

Mobile Service Provider Share of Market

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, June to November 2016, sample = 21,309 Australian aged 14+ with a Consumer Pays mobile phone, including 6,090 immigrants.

Only among the two million immigrants who have lived here for at least 20 years does Vodafone slip down to third spot (18 percent). Telstra firmly reclaims the dominant market position (39 percent), which boosts its overall share of immigrants to 25 percent. Remarkably, Optus’s share is virtually flat regardless of time in Australia, just as popular among immigrants who have been here for two years, as ten years or twenty. Altogether 24 percent of immigrants are with Optus for their mobile phone.

Then there’s the other 70 percent of Australians who were born here. Having grown up with a once monopolistic ‘national carrier’, 47 percent are with Telstra, 24 percent with Optus and just 13 percent with Vodafone. This is almost a mirror of the market shares among the most recent immigrants.

A multilingual network

Three in four immigrants who moved to Australia since the mid-1990s speak a language other than English at home, as do a third of all those who have lived here for at least 20 years. Seven percent of Australians born here also speak a non-English language when at home.

Overall, 22 percent of mobile owners in Australia speak a language other than English at home. The popularity of Vodafone among immigrants—especially the most recent arrivals—means it has by far the most multilingual customer base. 

44 percent of all Vodafone’s mobile customers speak a language other than English at home, compared with 24 per cent of Optus’s and only 10 percent of Telstra’s.

There are 14 non-English languages each spoken by more than 100,000 Australians at home. Vodafone is the most popular provider for speakers of eight of these languages, including all of the five most common: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Punjabi and Cantonese. This reflects Vodafone’s strength among people who arrived within the last 20 years, during which period immigration has been predominantly from India, China and the Middle East.

As well as having a lead among English speakers, Telstra is the top provider among those speaking German, Greek and Italian, who mostly arrived through earlier waves of immigration.   

Vietnamese speakers are most likely to have a mobile with Optus, as are speakers of Spanish and French. 

Top Mobile Provider by Languages Other than English (LOTE) spoken at home

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, December 2015 to November 2016, sample = 41,658 Australian mobile phone owners aged 14+ including 7,557 who speak a Language Other than English at home.

Michele Levine, CEO – Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Connecting a local mobile phone service is near the top of the to-do list for many immigrants. 97 percent of people who arrived within the last two years now have a mobile connected in Australia, compared with 87 percent of people born here. 

“It may be the number three mobile provider in Australia, but Vodafone is the only local network operator with an international brand. New arrivals are unlikely to have ever heard of Telstra or Optus before, but many will know of Vodafone—and some have already been a customer in their home country. 

“Vodafone has 200 million customers in India. Here in Australia, Vodafone is the overwhelming market leader among speakers of Indian languages at home, including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Urdu, as well as less common Malayalam, Gujarati, Telugu and Bengali. Up to 60 percent of these speakers are with Vodafone.

“Telstra remains the dominant mobile service provider among home-grown Australians, as well as those who have lived here for 20-plus years. Of course, this is over 80 percent of the country, giving the telco a clear market dominance overall. Nevertheless, Telstra would be looking at how to more quickly convey its brand to people born overseas. Recent immigrants could effectively be an ideal ‘control group’ for Telstra to measure against customers who’ve grown up with the brand.  

”As we recently reported, it’s vital to ensure that Australians from a non-English-speaking background are properly included in any measure of the national mobile phone market. An inherent difficulty, if not impossibility, with telephone and online surveys is sourcing a representative LOTE sample—without which, Vodafone’s overall market share will inevitably be underestimated.

“Vodafone is able to leverage its competitive edge as an international brand to get a head-start among new Australians—and must then work to hold on to these customers long-term, once they’ve become familiar with Telstra, Optus and the smaller virtual network operators.

Roy Morgan’s Helix Personas tool reveals many areas across the country with high concentrations of non-English speakers, but also shows there is much diversity within this market. From Quiet Achievers to Status Matters, Successful Immigrants to Aspiring Immigrants, Vodafone’s clearest target Helix Personas each have markedly distinct attitudes, lifestyles, media habits and reasons for choosing mobile provider.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%