Improvements in the Vodafone network. Stats and facts.
Let’s start with the most important facts in this story first. Vodafone Australia now has the second biggest 4G network, after Telstra. Vodafone Australia’s network covers a larger proportion of the population than Optus. We have more details, specifics and statistics below.
If you’d like chapter and verse on Australia’s network coverage, you can find that on our coverage page.
It was 5 years ago now that Vodafone engendered the moniker ‘Vodafail’. It takes a long time for people to forget experiences as bad as those they received on the Vodafone network in 2010. Their recovery from the events of 2010 was initially slow. Customer acquisition numbers reflected the same thing. Until 2015, Vodafone lost customers every measured period, quarter on quarter.
At WhatPhone, we’ve been watching the improvements ever since the turnaround began under Bill Morrow. We were impressed at the start of 2013 when Vodafone proved it had the fastest network in Australia’s major cities as we covered in our Vodafone Network Review article. And this recent announcement has impressed us again. Very quietly, Vodafone has reached a major milestone and usurped Optus.
How Vodafone outplayed Optus on network expansion
While Vodafone was going through the complicated operational processes required to improve their network, Optus was beating its chest.
While Vodafone was going through the complicated operational processes required to improve their network, Optus was beating its chest. Kevin Russell, the ex Optus CEO ( just to be clear, I have met Kevin and he, himself, was not a chest beater ) who has since gone on to run Telstra’s retail operations. While in charge, kevin, quite rightly, sets the company’s vision on improving the network to offer a genuine alternative to Telstra. There’s nothing to complain about there.
Over the following months, Optus made a series of announcements about how they were going to catch up to Telstra on their 4G network. They made promise after promise and actually did well on hitting their own timelines. That is until Vodafone’s announcements in early April 2016.
Vodafone is now leading the pack in many regards
Vodafone’s 4G footprint now extending to more than 95% of the Australian population.
Vodafone’s 3G network now covers more than 97% of Australians. In a press release, Vodafone confirmed that its national spectrum re-farm project has converted its entire holding of 850 MHz spectrum to increase its 4G network. They key change Vodafone made was to ‘refarm’ ( reuse ) their 850 MHz spectrum. They also turned on 850MHz 4G in two hundred and thirty five sites across QLD late last year.
Key facts :
- This single change has improved the national coverage statistics it provides by more than 20%.
- Vodafone’s 4G footprint now extending to more than 95% of the Australian population.
- 4G Footprint covers 23 million people :
- The company now claims its 4G footprint now reaches 23 million people in Australia.
- Vodafone have also rolled out 3 of 70 Blackspot improvements. They plans to build or upgrade 70 base stations in total across Australia. 28 base stations will go out in 2016, the rest in the following year. Vodafone is part of the government mobile blackspot program, their involvement in which secured an initial AU$185 million in funding.
- There has been an 85% increase in the use of data on the Vodafone network in the last 12 months. Vodafone says it has also doubled the capacity of its 4G low band network in metro areas, following an 84% increase in data usage on the Vodafone network in 2015 compared to the previous year.
Network guarantee name changed to Network happiness guarantee
Vodafone customers who sign up to a plan but are not satisfied in the first 30 days will be able to cancel their contract, and only pay for what they have used.
Vodafone have, for some time, offered ‘The Vodafone Network guarantee.’ They ‘re-announced’ the scheme when they released these statistics on the strength of their 4G network. The ‘new’ scheme is called the ‘Network Happiness Guarantee’. Simply put, Vodafone customers who sign up to a plan but are not satisfied in the first 30 days will be able to cancel their contract, and only pay for what they have used. Optus have matched the scheme, in light of Telstra’s recent network problems, ostensibly to encourage people to try their network.
Vodafone’s VOLTE rollout is also underway
VOLTE is a technical change in the network which improves call quality and handling. In addition, to improving its 4G network, Vodafone is first among the major telcos to roll VOLTE out to an ever widening array of phones.
Vodafone announced it has begun rolling out its Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) capability with a collection of ‘compatible devices’. These include the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge +, Note 5. It also includes iPhones running iOS 9.3. Soon, every phone released will benefit from VOLTE
Summing up Vodafone’s new network position
From the outside looking in, it’s not clear whether Vodafone’s alignment with TPG hastened an existing internal project. Vodafone Globally also had a lot of money sloshing around after the sale of Verizon in ‘Project spring’. In other territories, Vodafone specifically announced that they would be using Project Spring money to improve their networks.
Vodafone’s value is now best among the tier 1 phone companies ( for alternatives to the Tier 1 pricing, see our article ‘what is an MVNO and how will it save me money’ and / or our list of SIM Only / prepaid plans ). Their network is stronger than Optus. In addition to that, the company is leveraging it’s global strength in roaming and content.
The impression they’re leaving is a strong one. The Vodafone we’re looking at is nothing like the Vodafone from five or six years ago. They are executing extremely well. They’re covering the basics. They’re adding extras like VOLTE. They’re using their roaming strengths to differentiate and attract more customers.
It will be interesting to see how Vodafone approaches 5G. If the energy, vision and ability to execute we have seen in the last 3 years is anything to go by, Vodafone’s recovery could be further fueled by 5G and who knows, maybe even put them in the number 1 spot for network coverage.
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