Vodafone has announced firm dates on the completion of its 3G roll-out, which had been delayed last year due to problems with its supplier Ericsson.
The telco said it was in the final stages of testing its 3G network in major regional centres, which would go live during the first week in May, bringing Vodafone's 3G coverage up to 80 per cent of Australians.
The upgrade expands 3G services to Vodafone customers in areas including Albury-Wodonga, Ballarat, Ballina, Bunbury, Byron Bay, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Kiama, Lismore, Mackay, Newcastle, Toowoomba, Townsville, Wollongong, Bowral, Nowra and Wagga Wagga.
The rest of Vodafone's customers in 2G coverage areas will see the faster services by 31 August, when Vodafone plans to have reached 94 per cent of the population with 3G.
This was less than the original target of 95 per cent. A spokesperson said that as the company got closer to launch, testing and tuning had led it to get a more accurate estimate. "We wanted to be transparent," the spokesperson said.
The $500 million roll-out was originally scheduled to be completed by Christmas last year, but in October Vodafone came out with the news that the program would be delayed by months. The portion of the network which it shared with Optus — 63 per cent of the planned coverage — had been completed but the part which Vodafone was rolling out alone was not.
The delay was laid at Ericsson's door, with Vodafone CTO Andy Reeves saying that it was taking the vendor longer than originally anticipated to complete the project.
With the end of the upgrade now in sight, Reeves justified the delays. "It's always a race against time to bring major upgrades to market as soon as possible, but it's even more important to get it right first time and minimise disruptions to normal services," he said. "We've managed the project in a pragmatic way to ensure quality and continuity of coverage for our customers throughout the upgrade project."