Vodafone on Tuesday announced it had reallocated its low-band 850MHz mobile spectrum to boost 4G network coverage – particularly indoors – for 1.5 million of its existing customers.
The telco said the move – known as ‘refarming’ – complements its high-band network on the 1800MHz spectrum and will put its 4G services into the hands of 95 per cent of Australia’s metropolitan population by the end of this year.
The telco has just completed a trial of 4G-compatible devices using the spectrum across 40 sites in Newcastle, NSW.
Vodafone competitors Telstra and Optus announced last week they are providing early access to 4G services on the 700MHz spectrum in pilots around the country. The telcos were granted early access to commercial licenses to test the spectrum before 700MHz networks are switched on in January 2015.
Telstra is doing commercial trials in Esperance, Fremantle and Perth in Western Australia; Mildura, Victoria; Mt Isa, Queensland; and Griffith, NSW. Optus is running trials in Perth and Darwin.
Telstra paid $1.3 billion in the Digital Dividend auction of a 20MHz (paired) piece of the nationwide 700MHz spectrum. Vodafone has a 20MHz (unpaired) chunk of the available 850MHz spectrum.
Vodafone CTO Benoit Hanssen claimed 4G customers would see an immediate boost in coverage, and by using the 850Mhz spectrum, the telco was already addressing an established base of handset users.
“With the 700MHz spectrum, you will have to buy a new phone or device to get the benefit,” he said.
“As we modernise our network, we have built in the flexibility to do these kind of spectrum allocations, and we have benefitted from that now.”
Hanssen said as 4G users penetrate a building using Vodafone’s current services, they typically fall back onto the 3G service.
“As we deploy our low-band 4G, that won’t happen anymore … you’ll get the 4G benefit reaching quite deep indoors,” he said.
He said the telco was monitoring usage of the 700MHz spectrum and didn’t anticipate using it for the coming years.
Vodafone last week revealed it lost more than 137,000 customers in the six month period ending 30 June, blaming stiff competition and a saturated market.
Over the past three years, Vodafone has spent billions of dollars to improve its network, undertaking a complete rebuild of its 3G, 3G+, and 4G networks.
“It’s fair to say we’ve got the newest network in Australia … that new network provides a lot of flexibility in terms of shifting traffic between technologies,” he said.
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