Vodafone set to upgrade its national mobile broadband network

Vodafone is set to upgrade its national mobile broadband network to deliver high speed coverage to 95 per cent of the Australian population.

Vodafone Australia has announced new plans to upgrade its national mobile broadband network in the next 12 months. The new network is designed to increase the company's delivery of High Speed Packet Access coverage to 95 per cent of the Australian population.

"Vodafone is currently in a shared development with Optus providing 55 per cent coverage. We plan to build on the 55 per cent and expand this to 95 per cent," said Andy Reeves, chief technology officer at Vodafone Australia.

Vodafone's upgrade of all its mobile broadband network beyond the 55 percent coverage will see these sites provide High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and make them 3G-compatible. It will also improve network coverage and capacity for standard 2G and 3G voice calls.

According to Reeves wherever there is an existing 2G network, a 3G network will be there too. Vodafone's current network is primarily in metropolitan areas, as well as urban and semi-urban sites. If a customer doesn't get 2G coverage at present, they may be able to get 2G following the upgrade. Vodafone is also looking to upgrade more around areas that have 2G and expanding 2G further too.

Vodafone will continue its 3G joint-venture with Optus in major metropolitan areas. However, Vodafone will undertake its own upgrade to its 900MHz and 2100MHz mobile network in all other parts of the country. Reeves explained that the 2100MHz frequency is better suited to a densely populated area, whereas 900MHz is better suited to less populated areas.

"As a rule of thumb generally the lower the frequency generally the better the reach," he said. " We are designing the network to make the best of both frequencies, with a balance of good capacity and reach."

The first milestone for this project is to select a hardware and software vendor and Vodafone has been looking for vendors over the last few months -- with three vendors currently short listed. The successful vendor may be announced before Christmas and the company has already commenced work on its core network in preparation for its national mobile broadband upgrade.

Reeves said his team plans to move the mobile service out as quickly as humanly possible.

"This project is the single focus for Vodafone in 2008. My team will be 100 per cent focused on this upgrade," he said. "The biggest driver of the upgrade is the significant signs of mobile broadband uptake, and we are starting to turn the corner in terms of usage of mobile data. It's important strategically [for Vodafone] to be well in the game for the growth of mobile broadband."

This upgrade follows Vodafone Australia's completion of its three-year upgrade of its customer management, billing and provisioning systems.

All Vodafone mobile devices already in market will continue to operate on the new Vodafone mobile broadband network.

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Amanda Conroy

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