Telstra dominates the market as Australia's mobile phone service provider of choice both nationally, and in in capital cities throughout the country - with Optus nipping at its heels and Vodafone strolling in at third.
Except in Sydney.
According to Roy Morgan Research, among all of Australia's 18,775,000 mobile owners over the age of 14, Telstra is the number one mobile service provider at 43.6 per cent. Optus is at 24.1 per cent and Vodafone 18.0 per cent. But in city areas, you start to see a shift.
Across the capital cities, Telstra scores only 33.6 per cent of the market, a drop of 10 per cent from the national figures. Optus gains 2.2 per cent on its average share when looking just at the cities, but Vodafone gains the most - up by 6.1 per cent on the market share to 24.1 percent.
Looking at the individual cities though, we see other trends emerging. Telstra is still on top in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, but loses to Vodafone in the tight battle for Sydney. In Sydney, Vodafone is 30.4 per cent of the market, ahead of Telstra at 27.9 per cent and Optus at 26.5 per cent.
Vodafone is least popular in Brisbane with 15.9 per cent of the market share and Melbourne with 20.8 per cent, where both Telstra and Optus are at their strongest.
Optus's market share is comparatively consistent across most capitals, within a percentage point of its capital city average. The anomaly is Perth, where only 20.6 per cent of mobile owners are with Optus—bumping it down to third.
"Sydney is worth over $2.6 billion dollars a year to mobile service providers, and the big three network operators between them own 83.3 per cent of the market," Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan Research says. "Competition is at its peak in Sydney: Telstra would only need to steal 50,000 Vodafone customers to claim the lead—and Optus need only win 27,000 of Telstra's to bump the national provider down into third spot."
Levine says although there are some differences between mobile owners Sydney and other capitals in terms of how they use their phones, whether it's for mainly business or personal, what they want in service providers, and their cultural backgrounds and demographics, Vodafone's market lead in the city is particularly anomalous - but perhaps has a simple explanation.
"Roy Morgan's analysis indicates that traditional retail reach is an important piece of the puzzle," Levine says. "Almost three in five mobile owners in Sydney purchased their current mobile plan from a store, which is the same proportion as in Melbourne, where Vodafone is a distant third."
Levine says Vodafone's share of owners and their dollars in each city is actually remarkably similar when looked at "per store". That is, while mobile owners in Sydney and Melbourne equally prefer to buy their plans in-store, Vodafone has just over 50 per cent more stores in Sydney. "So it is any wonder its share of the market (and revenue) is also just over 50 per cent higher?" Levine asks.
In both Sydney and Melbourne, Vodafone has just over 7000 customers per store, worth around $430,000 a month.
One thing Roy Morgan didn't mention is the issue of coverage. While city folk have a plethora of choice when it comes to networks, rural areas still often only have one choice - Telstra.