If you live in Australia, then it’s more than likely that you’re familiar with Optus. The telco is the second largest in the country, boasting of over 10 million subscribers for services ranging from mobile SIM plans to home Internet, TV entertainment packages, and more.
Over the past couple of years, Optus has been in the news for several unique offerings. For instance, their partnership with Uber for same day delivery of products, their 5G roll out, Optus Sport platform, and many more. They have recorded the fastest 5G speeds in the country, and Optus Sport has become the go-to platform for live football matches. The telco even has the naming rights to Perth Stadium, widely known as Optus Stadium.
But while Optus’ popularity continues to grow, many Australians might not be aware of the telco’s history and ownership. If you’re interested in becoming an Optus customer (or if you already are), then knowledge of its background should be of interest. In this post, we’ll tell you all about Australia’s second largest telco. Read on to find out.
The Australian government formed AUSSAT in 1981, the country’s first national satellite system. Their satellites were used for a range of services including television as well as military and civilian communication.
The government later sold AUSSAT to Optus Communications along with a telecommunications license after recording losses. Optus Communications, at the time, was a consortium of companies which included Mayne Nickless (a logistic company), a United Kingdom’s telco called Cable & Wireless, a United States telco called Bellsouth, and others.
Optus was well on its way by 1991 when it gained its second general carrier license. The private telco became Telstra’s competitor, focusing on cheaper long distance call offers. However, in those early days, Optus had to use Telstra’s local network to offer domestic and long distance calls. The telco later built Australia’s first hybrid fiber-coaxial network, eliminating the need to rely on Telstra.
In 1997, Cable & Wireless bought out Bellsouth’s stake in the Optus Communications consortium, and changed the name to Cable & Wireless Optus Pty Limited in 1998, when the telco was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. However, in 2001, Singapore based company SingTel successfully took over the telco and changed its name to Singtel Optus Pty Limited. As a result, Optus is now a subsidiary of SingTel.
Optus made a series of takeovers in the 2000s, including UEComm in 2004, Alphawest Ltd. In 2005, and Virgin Mobile Australia in 2006. With these acquisitions, the telcos businesses were growing. Now, Optus focuses on four business sectors: mobile, wholesale, business, and consumer & multimedia.
Optus is still owned by Singtel (Singapore Telecommunications Limited), which is one of the four major telcos in Singapore. In 2020, the telco appointed Kelly Bayer as CEO. So far, we’ve seen the telco maintain many of its strategies under the new CEO, and perhaps this could remain the same in the future.
There are several areas which Optus can focus on to drive future growth, but we believe that the telco’s 5G network and Optus Sport platform are key drivers, as well as its mobile towers.
Optus launched its commercial 5G network in 2019 through its expressions of interest campaign, which saw select customers test out its fixed home wireless 5G plan. Since then, the telco has continued to roll out its mobile 5G network, which has recorded the fastest speeds in Australia.
But while Optus’ 5G rollout is moving at a good pace, the telco is facing increasing competition from Telstra and TPG Telecom (Vodafone). Both of those telcos have made strides in 5G coverage, with Telstra’s 5G network covering over 75 per cent of the entire population, and Vodafone covering 85 per cent of the population across 10 cities. To remain relevant in the 5G race, Optus future will likely focus largely on closing the 5G gap and, perhaps, making an attempt to take the lead.
Optus has also seen some major success in its entertainment platform Optus Sport, which is on its way to becoming a staple for football fans. Optus Sport owns rights to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Nations League, European Qualifiers, Football Association Women’s Super League (WSL), and Japan’s J League.
Optus Sport recently extended their contract with the English Premiere League (EPL), keeping them as the only platform to broadcast EPL live matches until 2028.
Optus Sport is a significant pillar for Optus. The platform gained over 700,000 subscriptions in 2018, and the telco claims those numbers have more than doubled. Optus will need to maintain its growth and stronghold in the football space in the future to capitalize on Optus Sport’s full potential.
Finally, Optus announced that it plans to sell its mobile towers. Following that announcement, Telstra followed suit and recently sold 49 percent of Infraco Towers, its mobile tower holdings. Telstra’s sale might have made it difficult for Optus to get maximum offers, but the telco will likely still follow through with its mobile tower sales and make a good profit at it. Optus will have to play this right to maximize its sales and mobile towers are likely to become the new cash cow for major telcos.
Companies that are run by foreign entities often operate differently from those run by domestic entities. This is the case with Optus, which operates in Australia but is owned by a Singapore telco (Singtel). Strategy decisions come down from the top, often without a full understanding of the Austalian market. Targets are set under the same circumstances. Such an approach can be detrimental in many cases, but Optus has managed to remain competitive against Australian brands like Telstra.
Perhaps the key is that, while the company itself is managed from across the sea, there are multiple MVNOs, smaller phone companies like Moose Mobile and Amaysim, which are run with far more attention to the peculiarities of the Australian way of looking at the world. It is as much through these companies that Optus delivers competition as in the price plans and products the mother ship imposes.