Vodafone announces first 5G site to be turned on “within weeks”. Image Source
Vodafone is finally entering the commercial 5G race
After a rocky 2019, Vodafone is looking to bounce back strong. The telco has another update about its 5G plans, announcing that its first 5G site will go live “within weeks”.
5G has been the hot topic for a couple of years now, but Vodafone’s participation was largely nonexistent throughout 2019. Telstra and Optus began turning on their 5G sites last year, and for a while now the 5G race in Australia has been, for the most par, a two-man race between those two telcos.
That’s what makes Vodafone’s announcement a big deal. The telco had been seemingly insignificant until December, when it announced that it had partnered with Nokia for 5G equipment, and that 5G will be launched this year, starting with Parrametta.
Their latest announcement, though, is a bit more specific – Vodafone’s first 5G site will be turned on in just a matter of weeks.
What we know so far about Vodafone 5G
Last year was relatively quiet for Vodafone as far as 5G was concerned. While Optus and Telstra dominated the 5G news cycle, Vodafone had their hands full with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, who blocked their merger with TPG. But we’ll get to that part later.
The past couple of months have finally seen Vodafone get some positive news, and 5G is certainly one of them. So here’s what we now know about Vodafone’s 5G moves:
- Vodafone’s initial plans were to launch 5G with Huawei’s help.
- Huawei, however, was banned by the Australian government from participating in the country’s 5G rollout.
- Vodafone was then out of a partner (Optus was, too, but was able to overcome that rather quickly).
- Vodafone then announced their partnership with Nokia in December last year, and that their first 5G site will be turned on this year in Parrametta.
- The telco also indicated that their 5G service will not cost customers extra.
- Today, during their 2019 results briefing, Vodafone announced their first 5G site will be switched on within weeks.
- Vodafone also indicated that 650 5G sites are currently “in progress”.
- Commercial launch is expected in “mid 2020”, and thousands of sites are expected over the years.
- Vodafone’s only 5G phones so far are the Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+, and Galaxy S10 Ultra.
If things go as planned, perhaps Vodafone can catch up quickly with Optus and Telstra on 5G. After all, although those telcos have launched 5G, they have a long way to go before a full roll out – their 5G networks are only available in select areas right now.
But whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Vodafone is playing catch up. But that isn’t surprising, considering how rough 2019 was for the telco.
2019 – A rough year for Vodafone
Vodafone intially partnered with Huawei for 5G equipment, but that plan was stymied when Australia banned Huawei. The telco wasn’t the only one affected though – Optus was, too, but they bounced back and launched their 5G network last year. So why didn’t Vodafone also bounce back?
Vodafone was having a series of financial problems. The telco had invested a lot into its network plans with Huawei, and that ban, amidst financial issues, was a hard blow. The telco consistently reported losses, and is still reporting losses. For example, their recent report indicates a 3% decrease in revenue, 5% decrease in customer base, and a net loss of $279 million in 2019. Vodafone lost customers across all mobile categories – postpaid (1%), prepaid (8.6%), and even indirect customers through MVNOs (13%).
But Vodafone was also dealing with a different issue. The telco planned to merge with TPG, but the ACCC dragged the process throughout last year. The ACCC eventually opposed the merger, taking the position that it would harm competition in the telco market.
Vodafone and TPG then took the matter to federal court, where they eventually won. That seems to have turned the tide a bit, and now some good news is finally pouring in for the telco.
Good news for Vodafone
The recent federal court ruling allowing the Vodafone-TPG merger is great news for the telco. Their focus can finally move to 5G, which is very important to keeping up with the Australian telco market now that Telstra and Optus have gotten a head start.
Also, while Vodafone’s financial report had a series of losses, there were also some notable gains. The telco grew its fixed-wireless customer base to 114,000, which is certainly positive news. They also gained 7% in earned interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBIDTA).
With a new 5G partner, an upcoming 5G live site in Parrametta, a favorable ruling on a Vodafone-TPG merger, and a rise in NBN customers, things might be taking a turn for the better.
For what seemed like an eternity, Vodafone seemed to be nonexistent in Australia’s 5G market. That just changed. Although there isn’t a concrete date yet, the telco’s estimation of “within weeks” is a lot more concrete than its prior silence. The Australian 5G market is really shaping up now that the third major telco has officially thrown its hat into the race.