National mobile carrier Vodafone this afternoon said it was ahead of schedule in delivering the re-build of its troubled mobile network, stating that customers were already starting to see a difference in the quality of their connections.
In October last year, the company revealed it would construct a new 850MHz network to support the growing use of smartphones and mobile broadband, including 1,500 new sites, as well as building 1,400 new sites on its existing 2100MHz network and construction 500 new regional sites.
In addition, the company revealed in late February this year that it would install new radio equipment at some 8,000-odd mobile base stations around Australia, upgrading some 5,800 existing sites with new equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei, as well as constructing some 2,200 new sites. The rollout was at that stage scheduled to take place over the succeeding 18 months.
In a statement this afternoon, the telco said it had added 775 new sites to its network using the new 850MHz spectrum and had also upgraded some 810 sites, including backbone capacity increases at 330 ‘high-traffic’ sites.
“By the end of the year an additional 520 sites will have been upgraded and 500 network sites added across the country to improve coverage, signal strength, and overall network quality,” the telco said.
The telco’s chief technology officer Michael Young claimed Vodafone was now “over half way through” its new network site build.
The telco’s director of customer service and experience, Cormac Hodgkinson, said what was most important to Vodafone was the experience of its customers on its network. On that front, the executive said, the telco had made a great deal of progress, with an 18 percent improvement in dropped calls and a 66 percent increase in data reliability since January.
” While we still have more to do, we have seen a significant reduction in customer calls about network issues,” said Hodgkinson.
A Vodafone spokesperson was not immediately available to clarify the situation, but it appears the new Huawei radio access hardware has so far only been installed at 49 sites in the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast region.
“The 49 sites where we have replaced equipment with new technology are leading the way in terms of our site performance, and customer satisfaction has risen in that area,” said Hodgkinson. The Huawei replacement program will now occur “concurrently around the country” in each state, according to Vodafone’s statement, with Canberra and Perth being the first metropolitan areas to receive the upgrades over the next few months.
The network upgrades come as Vodafone is currently attempting to rejuvenate its reputation in the Australian marketplace. The company experienced a tsunami of complaints from customers over the closing months of 2010 and the first few months of 2011, as its network struggled to cope with customer demand and suffered a constant series of drop-outs and poor coverage.
Image credit: VHA