Vodafone to switch on 4G in June, gains slight network advantage

Vodafone will finally switch on its 4G network in June, the company announced yesterday, but the announcement means customers will receive faster speeds several months after Telstra and Optus have been enjoying access to 4G speeds.

Although Vodafone will be the last major mobile network to switch on its 4G services, at least one expert suggests the telco is relatively well positioned.

“Vodafone has more 1800 MHz spectrum than the other two operators,” says independent telecommunications analyst Chris Coughlan.

The 4G networks work on different frequencies. Vodafone has a much bigger portion of the 1800 MHz spectrum, considered to be superior, than do the networks currently used by either Optus or Telstra, which will give the company an advantage even considering its late arrival.

The speeds on 4G are comparable to what a user would expect on a wired ADSL line.

Yesterday, Vodafone Australia chief Bill Morrow said the telco will launch its 4G services in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Gold Coast.

“Our customers have said they want faster speeds, more coverage, and a dependable network,” Morrow said in a statement.

“Our 3G+ and 4G technology provides them with the speed, and we will be adding nearly 2,000 additional sites this year to improve coverage for our customers where they need it most.”

Vodafone has been on the back foot for the past few years. The company has been hit by complaints from customers regarding poor coverage, with a class-action lawsuit launched against the company.

A security issue last year also hit its reputation.

While Morrow has been attempting to push several initiatives such as hiring more customer service staff in Australia, increasing network capacity and emphasising the 1800 MHz network, Coughlan says the company is still suffering from those incidents.

However, the 4G network could work in its favour, he says.

“On day one, the company will have a good service, with good connections. In the early days you can expect that network to be strong.”

Vodafone won’t have that advantage forever. Telstra plans to add more frequency in the 900 MHz spectrum and in 2015, networks will have access to the 700 MHz spectrum, currently used for analog television signals. That network is considered to be superior.

Vodafone isn’t taking part in the auction for that spectrum – only Optus and Telstra will be bidding. The telco is using the money to upgrade its current network instead.

“We have a long way to go but with our local call centre investment, our determination to eliminate bill shock for customers, and now our 4G network launch, we are well on track,” Morrow said yesterday.

For now, Coughlan says, Vodafone has a slight advantage.

“They’re in a good position right now,” he says.



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