Vodafone ‘guarantees’ network quality — or your money back


news ‘Vodafone Network Guarantee’ is mobile telco Vodafone’s latest move to assuage irate customers in the face of continuing network concerns and coverage woes. The Guarantee, introduced on a trial basis in South Australia and the ACT from the first week of September 2011, and nationally on December 4th, 2011, is applicable to all new and upgrading customers who had signed up for the post-paid plan.

Under the Vodafone Network Guarantee scheme formally announced by Vodafone last week, a customer choosing a new smartphone, tablet or mobile broadband device on one of the telco’s plans are assured of experiencing stable network conditions. Should the customer be dissatisfied with the Vodafone experience within the first 30 days of the contract, the device can be returned and the contract cancelled. Payment is to be made only for the access the customer had used until the cancellation goes through. Details of the plan, as well as terms and conditions, are available online.

In its quarterly results released in February 2012, ZDNet.com.au reported at the time, Vodafone revealed that its Australian business had lost 30,000 customers between October and December 31st, 2011, bringing the total customer base to 3,362,000, and blaming the 11.1 per cent service-revenue decline on “network and customer-service difficulties.”

In an effort to restore customer confidence, Vodafone intends rolling out its national advertising campaign, on March 11th, to take the Guarantee across Australia.

In a media release by Vodafone late last week, Nigel Dews, CEO Vodafone, Australia, hopeful that customers would benefit from network improvement initiatives that the company had undertaken, stated: “We fast-tracked our $1 billion network investment from the start of last year to deliver a better network experience to our customers. We’ve now completed more than two-thirds of our new 850MHz network build, and we plan to have this completed by Q3 this year.”

He further added that the company was continuing with its network investment program for the continued rollout throughout the year of new 4G-ready equipment at all base stations, designed to deliver significant improvements to coverage and data speeds.

The introduction of the Vodafone Network Guarantee after this major multi-million dollar network overhaul is the latest step taken by the company in an attempt to turn the customer tide back in its favour, following a series of well-publicised network outages in late 2010 and early 2011 that had earned the company the moniker ‘Vodafail’.

Vodafone confirmed that return of mobile devices in South Australia and Canberra, where customers had subscribed to the Vodafone Network Guarantee (it was being run on a trial basis), was low – at around one device per day, an indication that the network Guarantee had been well received.

Steps taken from December included training of retail staff in the advantages of the plan, and making the Guarantee plan available in-store as well as online, Over the past three months, Vodafone has seen an average return rate of around four or five devices per day from the new customers that had signed up. This, according to the company, was a small number compared to the sale of thousands of mobile phones on a daily basis.

Is Vodafone’s network guarantee enough to convince customers to give the telco a second chance? To my mind, it probably is. Vodafone has truly pulled out all the stops over the past year to reform its network and its customer service record, and it’s definitely having an impact. While it hasn’t really shown up in the numbers yet, anecdotally I no longer really hear about the company suffering from network problems.

What I do hear most about, right now, is Telstra having congestion issues on its 3G network in CBD areas. It’s a phenomenon I’ve experience myself several times over the past few months. Well, we’ve had #badoptus and #vodafail; perhaps it’s time for a new website, dubbed ‘Hellstra’?

Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay


  1. I don’t want to derail this in the first comment, but you’re spot on re Telstra. It’s garbage in Melbourne’s CBD, and has been for several months.

    Hopefully Vodafone’s new quality focus bumps up the standards across the board.

  2. Telcos are now coming to grips with the reality of bandwidth, just as ISP’s did a couple of years ago.

    How ever much you offer, your clients will use it and want more.

  3. I stopped whining because I moved from Vodafone to Telstra. Telstra still manage to screw up their billing in new and creative ways (the reason why I left in the first place, years ago) but at least my phone works. Vodafone had a retail store in a major shopping center outside Hobart where you frequently couldn’t get a signal at all. Media campaigns and apologetic letters outlining all their network improvements don’t mean a thing if the improvements never seem to make it to where you live.

  4. “I stopped whining because I moved from Vodafone to Telstra.”

    Same. Friends still struggle with VF here in Sydney. I love firing up Speedtest and showing them my 5Mbps transfer rates. :)

  5. Telstra in Melbourne CBD is terrible!

    I notice that the closer you are to one of the Telstra corporate offices the worse it is.

  6. They’ve been running the ‘network guarantee’ for business customers for a while now. I swapped our company to vodafone in november, and the guarantee was the main reason we agreed to do. (even the trial phones were only a partial guarantee of coverage)

    The coverage isn’t great, but it’s good enough within urban areas for us to stick around as customers.

  7. Part of my job is network management, we’ve seen a ten-fold improvement in some areas, all because of better network management, change of hardware and the 850mhz improvements.

    What I’d certainly say – is Renai – you should re-cover this in another 3 months.

    Reason being, is that for the most part the U2100mhz 3GIS network is not merged in with Vodafone’s existing network technology. This is expected by our predictions to improve coverage again, along with filling in existing coverage gaps that we have. 3GIS network integration has already been finalised in both WA and NT. This will play a strong part in the re-launch of the networks stronger capabilities.

    Now I could sell my own handywork to high heaven, but realistically the proof is in the pudding. Huawei’s tech is extremely good, its performance benefits are already being felt. The network has no intention of slowing its current rate of expansion any time soon, so hopefully those network numbers will start seeing black shortly ;)

    We’re gaining traction. Its been a painful learning curve, but the higher-ups are certainly paying attention, where we go from here? Forward. Very Forward.

    • Apollo, are you able to discuss what steps are being taken to rectify and improve the backhaul on the network? I’ve been lead to believe that this is the next area that needs to be addressed.

      • I’ll be as detailed as possible, unfortunately NDA prevents me from revealing much more than what you could probably get from network personnel.

        TPG’s Subsidiary, Pipe Networks was contracted to upgrade backhaul points between towers that were facing serious congestion. They are still completeing this task.

        This issue was raised in 2009, but the plan was not executed until october 2010. This is an ongoing project and does not have an estimated completion date at this time.

    • Sorry, but can you elaborate how the 3GIS network integration is complete in NT, when 3GIS equipment was never rolled out into Northern Territory to begin with ..?

      The Huawei swapout has been completed in WA and NT, so if anything you’ve just read whats publicly online and replaced “Huawei swapout” with “3GIS”

      Unless, you can elaborate further? :)

    • Hi Apollo, very interesting that you say the 3gis network will be integrated into the vodafone network as a whole. I live very close to the 3 tower in Maylands so get 5 bars on 3 network but friends on vodafone barely get 2 bars in our house.
      Do you know when this integration is scheduled and will it happen for sure?

      • And Apollo never came back.. which isn’t surprising since as I said how was 3GIS integrated in NT when where never was any 3GIS equipment in NT. More like replacing the words ‘huawei rollout’ with ‘3GIS’

        Anyway.. There is no real way for the average consumer to find out which site is going where. Telstra say any changes to 3GIS will happen after August 31 2012. With that being said not all 3GIS sites are going to Vodafone; only half of the 2700 are. The other 1350/half are going to Telstra considering they own 50% of 3GIS, so your local site may not even go to Vodafone

        You can always guesstimate, if the 3GIS site is on something like a power pole or on the side of a building, or on a site by itself, chances are it will go to Vodafone. If piggybacking off a Telstra tower (using their site, not the actual Telstra network), very likely Telstra. Rumour is all sites built by Hutchison around 2002-2005 will go to Vodafone Hutchison AUS, any sites built after 2005/formation of 3GIS will go to Telstra, considering they pretty much did all the work construction wise after this point

  8. Network quality is all very well, but it’s not enough to win hears and minds.
    I was not notified when my 2-year contract with “3” expired. However, I took out a better plan elsewhere at the due date. To my surprise, I continued to receive monthly bills from “3”, although I no longer used it, so I had to phone an unintelligible foreign call centre, where the representative strongly pressured me to take a Vodafone WiFi modem at $10 a month, offering 4.5GB of monthly data. This sounded so good that I agreed.
    Although the new modem arrived in the mail, no written contract appeared and I had no idea how to log into my new Vodafone account. I tried it out when it arrived, using less than a GB of data and soon received a much larger bill for excess data. At that point, I put it in a drawer, pending further information.
    Now, a few months later, I’ve received a message that I must use my new account, or it will be cancelled.
    That’s no way to run a business and certainly no way to keep clients.

  9. The title of the article isn’t right… It is not actually “Vodafone ‘guarantees’ network quality — or your money back” You only get the Early Termination Fee waved… You still do have to pay for all your usage before you canceled… You do not actually get “any money back” you are getting the EFT waiver.

    It should be “Vodafone ‘guarantees’ network quality — or you’re free to exit”

    • I thought about this also. Technically you *do* get your money back as you don’t have to pay for the contract. That’s what exiting early means — normally you would get slugged a massive fee for that.

  10. One trick that Vodafone uses to good effect is offering handset upgrades prior to the end of a 24 month contract to loyal customers if they sign on again. I can get a new handset on Vodafone now or I can wait 6 months and go with another provider. I know which one I’m choosing :) It’s enough to keep me hopeful that the marginal in building service I get at my home in the ACT will improve although I don’t see any ACT upgrades on Vodafone’s weekly network status posts.

    • The upgrade reports that are publicly released are different to the ones dealers and the final ones network admins will see.

      I dont look after the ACT, but the ones for ACT are mostly huawei swapouts, or 3GIS integration not new stations. New network station placement is subject to change, due to 3GIS integration being on top-priority.

    • It’s highly unlikely I’ll stay with VF after many years with them when my current contract expires no matter what inducements they offer. Their recent plan price rises and the abolition of the lower Infinite plans will force me to go to Amaysim, Boost or somewhere similar.

      Why should I pay premium prices for a second-rate service (and I include the foreign call centre in that) when I can get an unlimited plan including 13/18 numbers for $39 with triple or quadruple the amount of data VF offers?

  11. I may have been willing to give Voda a try, but honestly, their Coverage in Regional areas isnt even up to par with Optus yet.. Until they do, im staying with Optus.

  12. Vodafone keeps coming out with all these gimmicks. Advertising, offers etc but they still have not addressed the core issues.

    1.Fixing the vodafone network adequately (this still has not been done), no matter how much they say it it has not been fixed adequately. Do the job properly.

    2. futureproofing the network – all the fixes that they claim they are doing are merely band-aid solutions to patch a crumbling network.

    3. Firing Nigel Dews who has failed to do his job and must be held responsible for the incompotent management of the company and its network. The day they fire Nigel Dews people will start to take notice that vodafone are actually doing something to fix Vodafone.

    • Inititally, I was of the same mind. However, some of my senior engineers changed my mind.

      Nigel Dews wasnt officially in charge of the network until this problem was in full swing in October of 2010. He’s never worked with Vodafone as a CEO before and was previously from Three. All of the current board members are from Three, not from Vodafone as most people assume. Vodafone is purely the namesake, the control – better dealing arrangements with network partners and manufacturers.

      To his defence, Nigel Dews has done exactly everything he should be doing. Making a very solid attempt to sort the issues out, by getting the research team to find the best network vendor. Experiment with new tech and deploy the best possible system. The Core reason why (and this information does come directly from the most recent statement to shareholders) the network has had issues is due to a lack of attention by Vodafone board members. Vodafone previously wanted out of this market because Hutchison was here. Vodafone and Hutchison dont directly compete with each other unless its in the interest of both, both companies work together on a global level in many countries and are very closely knit.

      Ask the three customers what the network was like before. Good they’ll say…
      Ask the Vodafone ones what it was like before? Good … until Vodafone decided to sell…

      Whether Dews will stay after 2012, very possible. 2013? Guess that depends who we vote for come end of financial OR if anyone wants to contest.

  13. I went into a retail store of theirs yesterday (Frankton, Victoria)… And their consultant told me that approximately 50% of their new connections come back and cancelled their contract. I simply don’t believe “four to five devices per day”… Why do they have a dedicated ‘network’ phone number (1300551198)?

      • Or perhaps with this guarantee there are ppl just seeing what voda is like?

        I might go and “sign up” to a $29 plan with a SGS2 and return it within the 30 days just to see what the network/phone is like, currently a telstra pre-paid customer since my contract ended almost 6mths ago, still using my iphone 3gs.

        But then again, I probably can’t be bothered ; D

  14. I was with Optus and moved to Vodafone in Oct/Dec last year when the iPhone 4S came out.

    All I can say is that I’ve found Vodafone to be much worse that Optus ever was.

    I will be moving to Telstra when my contract expires, I have seen no improvement with the Vodafone network.

  15. I still have every intention of leaving Vodafone at the end of my contract. And there’s definitely been a marked improvement, so I have seen the effect of the upgrades. It’s just still not good enough.

    It’s not that the coverage is bad; I’ve actually found it to be better than expected and, tunnels and obvious middle-of-nowhere aside, I can’t remember the last time I lost reception.

    The main problem is – essentially – their quality as an ISP. I mostly use my phone for data these days, and it’s all too common to have perfect reception and yet the internet is unusable. It can be local congestion – and often in areas where a six year old could’ve warned them years in advance – or it can be overall network issues like their painfully slow DNS. Either way it can make simple tasks utterly frustrating experiences.

  16. The network improvements are real tangible and are making a solid difference that can be guaranteed. Not for everyone all the time but for the vast majority. The cool thing is that there’s more to come! If the idiots at the store that reported 50% taking advantage of the guarantee did their customer qualifying properly their score would be a lot better and speaks more to poor sales skill then a poor network.

  17. Vodafone network guarantees is a jokes. The guy at work was showing me a website on his phone, keep on saying “network failed”. He was pretty embarrassed about it and started swearing on how sh*t Vodafone is.

  18. In the perth CBD Vodafone has been complete rubbish for months. Rates of 1-3kb/s down and upto 200kb/s up. It’s all nice and good they want to attrach new customers. How about giving existing customers their money back for a substandard service.

  19. Any comments on the reported fact that Vodaphone Australia is being offered for sale by its European owners?

    • Ah yeah just saw the yarn. Will do a piece on this later on this morning. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. Cheers for the headsup!

  20. Sitting at home 20ks nw of Sydney cbd, writing on my Optus phone because I have zero mobile coverage with my vodafone 3G modem.

    Nothing will change, vodafone’s customer service is truly awful ( i got a SMS saying they tried to call my 3g internet mobile and they couldn’t get through)! Their coverage is clearly in need of more improvement.

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