4G wars: Can Vodafone make a 4G comeback?

4G wars: Can Vodafone make a 4G comeback?

The telco has not been shy in its investment in its network and spent $1 billion on its network from mid-2009 to the end of 2011.


Unlike Optus and Telstra, which are both keen to get their hands on the 700MHz spectrum in the Digital Dividend, Vodafone CEO, Bill Morrow, recently told Inside Business the telco does not need the spectrum.

Instead, he said the telco might sit at the table to see what prices are and what the details include, but the telco does not have an intention of bidding for the spectrum.

“The reality is Vodafone [is] blessed with a bit spectral position. We have multiple spectrum bands available to us [due to the merger between Vodafone and 3]…” he said on the program.

“So if you look at the evolution of [Vodafone and 3] from before, they've acquired spectrum in different areas. When you put them all together it is a very nice, healthy, deep position.”

Vodafone currently has access to 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz and plans to deploy its 4G technology on the 1800MHz spectrum, which Morrow said the telco does not currently have traffic on.

In September last year the telco announced it had strengthened its 1800MHz holding by making arrangements with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to exchange and reallocate blocks of spectrum with state railway authorities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to support the rollout of LTE.

Vodafone carried out 4G trials in Newcastle at the end of 2010 on the 1800MHz spectrum, the frequency on which it intends to offer 4G services to customers.

Ryan says Newcastle was an ideal location as it was close to the company’s head office and replicates large city areas in Australia.

“So the beauty of Newcastle is it’s got a bit of a downtown, it’s got a bit of hills, it’s got a little bit of urban spread, we’ve got some in building systems. It’s a very small replica of what you find in any major capital city and that’s why we did it,” he says.

Ryan says speeds achieved in the trials reached the mid to high 70Mbps range, with the telco also testing for static and mobility.

In the future, however, Ryan says the telco is likely to need to use a lower band spectrum to provide 4G coverage.

“With 2G [all telcos have] done it in 900MHz low and we’ve all done it at 1800MHz high band. For 3G we do it at 850MHz low band and we do it at 2100MHz high band,” he says.

“I foresee LTE being exactly the same thing. You will do a high band capacity layer, which we’re all going at 1800MHz and therefore probably at some point we all need to do a low band LTE coverage layer, which may or may not be 700MHz.”

Vodafone's 4G future

Vodafone is pegged to launch its 4G services in early 2013, with the telco stating no specific date has yet been set.

However, it has published information on the speeds its 4G network will achieve.

It says download speeds will be between 2Mbps and 40Mbps, with an average download speed of 15Mbps. This compares to speeds of between 1Mbps and 16Mbps on the telco’s 3G+ network, according to Vodafone, with average download speeds of 8Mbps and speeds of 0.5Mbps and 5Mbps on its 3G network, with average download speeds of 1Mbps.

“Vodafone 3G+ and 4G (LTE) are very exciting technologies that will feature very strongly in our network improvements over the next two years,” Morrow has previously stated.

“As we now approach the completion of this phase of our national network roll out, we have mapped out a very clear path for the introduction of higher data speeds and enhanced coverage for the benefit of our smartphone, tablet and mobile broadband customers.”

The future of 4G in Australia

4G wars: Can Optus and Vodafone compete with Telstra?
4G wars: Telstra betting big on 4G
4G wars: The road to 4G for Telstra
4G wars: New spectrum key to Optus’ 4G future
4G wars: Optus’ road to 4G

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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