Australian mobile network operator Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), the joint venture between Vodafone Australia and Hutchison 3G Australia, has announced plans to replace 2G and 3G equipment across its network as part of an overarching project which aims to boost both coverage and the download speeds on offer. According to iTnews, VHA has contracted Huawei to replace base station equipment at 5,800 of the sites that previously belonged to Vodafone, with the Chinese vendor expected to install its SingleRAN base stations and radio network controllers (RNCs), replacing hardware that had previously been installed by Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). The new equipment will allow the delivery of 2G, 3G and 4G services from a single base station at theoretical downlink speeds of up to 42Mbps. Over the course of the next 18 months VHA also expects to have the equipment installed at a further 2,200 sites that are due to be brought online over that timeframe, as the operator expands its infrastructure. Further, it has also been revealed that VHA will deploy Huawei-supplied radio network controllers (RNCs) at sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth; the controllers are designed to control and optimise network performance. The scale of the project, it is claimed, will see Huawei double its workforce in Australia with the addition of some 300 new technical staff to support the rollout, while it is also likely to call on the services of around 200 sub-contractors.
The decision by VHA to undertake such a significant upgrade project has, in part, been prompted by complaints and technical issues relating to its existing infrastructure. Reports in January 2011 revealed that the cellco had set up ‘task force teams’ to resolve capacity issues affecting its network after a number of months of customers raising issues with 3G data browsing services. Such has been the level of criticism that today also saw VHA chief executive Nigel Dews apologise to customers via the company website, with the executive noting that the company had been too slow to react to those technical issues which had affected its network in recent months. ‘We’re installing the latest technology from the company that we believe is the best network hardware and software vendor in the world to deliver a better mobile experience to our customers,’ Dews said, adding, ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do but we have a very clear picture of what needs to be done … We start immediately so many customers should start to see and experience real improvements in the network.’