T-Mobile Austria maintains drive to boost data income

VIENNA, March 6 Thu Mar 6, 2014 7:22am EST

VIENNA, March 6 (Reuters) - T-Mobile Austria will maintain its push to make customers pay more for data after revenues fell 6 percent last year despite usage doubling, the company said on Thursday.

Operators are trying to wean customers off the unlimited data packages to which they have become accustomed, restructuring tariffs so that subscribers pay more for increased data usage.

The Deutsche Telekom subsidiary, which competes with Telekom Austria and Drei, the local arm of Hutchison Whampoa, said that public concern about price increases in Austria did not reflect the real numbers.

The Austrian mobile market is under close scrutiny from both investors and regulators for signs of price increases after Drei bought bigger rival Orange Austria last year.

"The loss of variable fees such as for SMS (messaging) or roaming is not nearly compensated for by higher basic tariffs," T-Mobile Austria's Chief Executive Andreas Bierwirth said in a statement.

"That's why we already undertook an adjustment of our tariffs to the changed usage patterns last year, in which data prices are central. We will continue this adjustment this year in order to keep our operations sustainable," he said.

All three operators have raised some tariffs, but the effects have so far been outweighed by regulatory cuts to fees and the loss of lucrative SMS messaging traffic to the likes of WhatsApp, which Facebook is buying for $19 billion.

Telekom Austria last week reported a 6 percent drop in fourth-quarter sales and said it expects a further 3 percent fall this year.

Deutsche Telekom earlier scrapped its free cashflow guidance to spend more money to win customers in the United States, dashing hopes for a recovery in dividend payments.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Goodman)