Vodafone follows in Telstra's footsteps with 2GB free data for outage

Despite making light of Telstra's free data days earlier this year, Vodafone has responded to its own network outage with a gift of 2GB of extra data for all mobile customers.

Vodafone Australia has announced that it will be making up for its 4G mobile outage on Sunday night, which brought down data, voice, and text services for several hours, by offering a bonus 2GB of data in October or November to all customers.

"It's our way of saying sorry to those customers affected by a router malfunction, which caused intermittent disruption to mobile services last night and this morning. It's also to say thank you to our other customers for their loyalty," Vodafone said on Monday evening.

"While not all customers experienced service disruption, all post-paid customers and prepaid customers who top up within a month will receive an additional 2GB of data.

"We apologise sincerely for this disruption and we hope the 2GB of bonus data will allow customers to enjoy more of the Vodafone network."

Vodafone on Monday confirmed that its 4G mobile outage, which began around 6.30pm AEST on Sunday night, was caused by a router issue, with most services restored as of 1:30am AEST on Monday morning.

The 4G outage subsequently led to a large number of customers attempting to use the 2G and 3G networks, with a high level of congestion following.

A "residual issue from the original incident" caused some customers to continue experiencing the network disruption until 11.30am on Monday.

"At around 6.30pm yesterday, we experienced an issue which impacted part of our network, resulting in intermittent disruption to voice, text, and data services," a Vodafone spokesperson said.

Vodafone's free data offering came in spite of Vodafone making fun of Telstra's free data days back in March.

"We know how important it is to stay connected, so if you're having trouble with your network, we invite you to come on over to Vodafone," Vodafone director of Sales Ben McIntosh said at the time.

"We know 'free data' days are all the rage right now, which is why Vodafone offers two months of unlimited data to post-paid voice customers when they join or upgrade."

Telstra's free data days were gifted to its customers as a result of a series of network outages.

The first outage took down voice and data across mobile for several hours, and was caused by "embarrassing human error". It resulted in the telco gifting all customers with free unlimited data on February 14 in order to provide compensation.

The second outage was also experienced across the country, with smartphones stuck on "SOS only" or "no service", unable to connect to either data or voice services. Telstra consequently began a "major" engineering review and offered another free data day in April.

Telstra then used its free data days as proof of how much traffic its mobile network could handle; former COO Kate McKenzie called them a success, with 1,841 terabytes of data downloaded on February's free data day, and 2,686 terabytes of data in April.

"We were very pleased with the way the network performed, given this tsunami of data. To ensure fairness for all customers accessing the network, traffic-balancing mechanisms tuned and optimised the mobile network during the day. Like any of our global peers, there will always be issues that arise in such a large and complex environment," McKenzie said.

"You only need to look at the results of our free data days to see what our network is capable of."

Telstra has also seen five other network outages during 2016: A smaller voice outage on March 22; an NBN and ADSL outage in May; a mobile data services outage later that week; a broadband service outage in June; and an outage that took down businesses across Victoria, including banks, hospitals, department stores, and Jetstar in June.

By the time the fourth outage occurred, however, McKenzie conceded that customers "weren't that interested" in yet another free data day, instead asking for money off their bill and being sent free modems.

As a result of its outages, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn in June committed the telco to investing an additional AU$250 million in its network over the next six to 12 months in three major areas: AU$50 million to be spent on improving mobile network resiliency by creating better real-time monitoring and speeding up recovery time; AU$100 million on increasing the core fixed-line network's reliability and resiliency; and AU$100 million on upping its ADSL broadband capacity to cope with demand.

Vodafone in July reported a net loss of AU$163.7 million for the first six months of the financial year on revenue of AU$1.6 billion and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of AU$412 million.

CFO James Marsh partially attributed Vodafone's financial success to the reliability of its network, which it affirms with a 30-day money-back network satisfaction guarantee.

Vodafone had a total network customer base of 5.494 million as of June 30, up 4.5 percent year on year: 3.307 million post-paid customers; 1.679 million prepaid customers; and 508,000 MVNO customers thanks to TPG customers moving from Optus' network to Vodafone's.

Its MVNO customer base will continue rising, with Vodafone purchasing mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Lebara earlier this month.

Vodafone's 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. The telco in May announced that it will spend AU$9 million on constructing 32 new mobile base stations in regional areas.

It is also continuing to expand its 4G network by purchasing AU$68 million worth of 1800MHz spectrum earlier this year; refarming its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory; and proposing 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.