Vodafone expands 4G network across Spain with Barca boost and Real reinvention

Geographical expansion backed up with improved performance in high-demand areas such as airports and sporting venues, Vodafone says.
Written by Steve Evans, Contributor

Vodafone Spain has announced further expansion of its 4G network, which now covers 220 towns, cities and areas across the country.

As of 1 April, the capital cities of all 50 provinces in Spain will be covered, while 80 cities that have over than 70,000 inhabitants will also be part of Vodafone's LTE network.

This latest expansion is a big increase from its last update, when it announced that Santander, La Coruña and Zaragoza would go live in September last year, followed by Cordoba, Vigo, Murcia, Oviedo, and Gijon the following month.

Vodafone says it has also increased the quality of its 4G network with 90 percent coverage outdoors in Spain's eight biggest cities and 80 percent in the country's next 32 biggest cities.

It has also worked on improving coverage in many public spaces where network saturation has been an issue, such as airports, railway stations, conference centres and sports stadiums.

Vodafone claims its coverage has improved at airports including Madrid's Barajas, Barcelona's El Prat, Las Palmas in Gran Caneria, as well as at airports in Tenerife, Bilbao, Sevilla, Vigo, San Sebastián, and Alicante. Atocha and Chamartin train stations in Madrid and Barcelona Sants train station have seen improved coverage, according to the operator.

The Santiago Bernabéu and Vicente Calderon stadiums, home of Real Madrid and Aletico Madrid respectively, and Barcelona's Nou Camp are also going to benefit from improved coverage, along with stadiums in Valencia, San Sebastián, Bilbao, and La Coruna.

The area around Barcelona's Fira Gran Via, home of the huge annual Mobile World Congress trade show, has also seen its capacity increase, which will no doubt see technology journalists across the world breath a huge sigh of relief.

Rival telecoms firm Movistar, owned by Telefonica, also recently announced an expansion to its 4G network. It says that by the end of 2014 it wants to have 60 percent of the nation covered, using a combination of its own nascent infrastructure and the network owned by Yoigo

In fact, it is less than a year since the first 4G network went live in Spain, but in that time coverage has expanded rapidly. Along with the two mentioned above, Yoigo says it plans to have 75 percent of the population covered by the end of 2014 while Orange Spain says it has similar ambitions.

What is interesting to note about Spain's 4G explosion is the prices, with some starting as low as €16, depending on data, call and text allowances and whether the user takes a phone as part of the deal. That seems a sensible approach to take given that Spain's struggling economy means many consumers don't have a lot of disposable income, and the mobile industry has suffered as a result.

That's also why the Spain's big four — Movistar, Orange, Vodafone and Yoigo — are all clamouring to offer combined mobile, home phone, TV, and broadband packages. The network sharing deal between Telefonica and Yoigo helped Yoigo offer triple-play packages, and Vodafone's recent acquisition of cable operator Ono will enable it to get into the home broadband market.

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