Mobile network operator Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) is reportedly ahead of schedule on the rollout of its 850MHz network, with the cellco claiming that it has now passed the halfway mark in the project. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in October 2010 VHA unveiled a major programme aimed at amalgamating its assets into a single network, while also confirming plans to undertake an expansion project that would see it add around 1,400 new cell sites and establish a new network operating over the 850MHz band; the new infrastructure is expected to span the 1,500 2G base stations VHA already operates, although it will likely expand to its entire footprint in the future. In the latest development, according to iTech Report, VHA has announced that more than 775 new sites for the new 850MHz network have now been rolled out, while a further 810 sites across the country have been upgraded, 330 of which are in high traffic areas. Commenting on the project’s status, Cormac Hodgkinson, director of customer service and experience, noted: ‘A great deal of work is being put into improving network performance, but what’s most important is what our customers are experiencing. While we still have more to do, we have seen a significant reduction in customer calls about network issues …We are also building a number of smart tools into the network which will allow us to be able to look at each individual customers experience, so we can spot any problems, fix them quicker and make sure we are tuning and upgrading the network where our customers most need it.’ Work in Canberra and Perth is expected to be completed first, within the next few months according to VHA, whilst upgrades and rollout will be concluded in other metropolitan areas by the end of 2011.
VHA’s focus on its infrastructure has, in part, been prompted by complaints and technical issues relating to its existing infrastructure. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in January 2011 it was 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 was the level of criticism that VHA chief executive Nigel Dews took the decision to 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. With upgrade and expansion plans now in full swing, VHA has claimed that since the start of its improvement works there had been an estimated 18% improvement in dropped calls, coupled with a 66% increase in data reliability.