Vodafone Australia CTO Benoit Hanssen departing

The CTO responsible for Vodafone's push into regional network coverage is departing for a role at Hutchison.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has announced that its chief technology officer Benoit Hanssen is departing to join the mobile telecommunications provider's half owner Hutchison.

Hanssen, who joined as CTO in 2013, is due to leave Vodafone late next month, with VHA general manager for Access Network Delivery Kevin Millroy to fill the role while Vodafone recruits a permanent replacement.

"In his three years as chief technology officer, Benoit has led the transformation of VHA's network," Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta said.

"Among his many achievements, Benoit has overseen the launch and rollout of 4G on the VHA network, the upgrade of VHA's core network, and the commencement of the fibre transmission network rollout."

According to Berroeta, Hanssen led the push to improve the network in regional and rural areas; in April, Vodafone announced that its 4G network covers 95.3 percent of the Australian population, or 23 million people -- a 40 percent rise in its network size over the past four years.

"Under Benoit's leadership, VHA's network has improved significantly, with the 4G network now reaching more than 22 million Australians. On the back of this improvement, the VHA customer base has returned to growth and we have set new benchmarks in the area of customer complaints with VHA achieving the lowest ratio of complaints amongst the major carriers for the past three quarters," Berroeta added.

"While Benoit will be missed by the VHA team, he has been offered a fantastic opportunity. I wish Benoit all the best for his future endeavours."

In its bid to improve telecommunications coverage in rural areas across the country, Vodafone in May announced that it would spend AU$9 million on constructing 32 new mobile base stations. It also purchased AU$68 million worth of 1800MHz spectrum and refarmed its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory; proposed to the Australian government that it be permitted to pay AU$594.3 million for 2x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band that was unsold in the 2013 auction; partnered with the Regional Australia Institute and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on releasing a report on regional telecommunications based on a case study of Northern Inland, NSW, in April; pushed M2M as an answer for farmers in February; and partnered with the National Farmers' Federation to develop an online platform for farmers as part of an effort to "digitally transform" the agriculture industry in December.

Borroeta also credited Hanssen with being the "driving force" behind the telco's participation in the Australian government's mobile blackspots program, under which Vodafone is building 70 base stations as part of round one, with plans to take parts in the second and third rounds.

The news about Hanssen's departure comes after news on Monday that Telstra chief operating officer Kate McKenzie will be retiring in coming weeks following Telstra suffering a series of network outages earlier this year. Telstra's CTO Vish Nandlall also departed the telco in May amid speculation that he was sacked for falsifying his CV.