Vodafone NZ preps network for 5G

Vodafone New Zealand and Ciena are deploying programmable capabilities to the network in order to prepare for 5G and IoT applications.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Vodafone New Zealand has announced partnering with Ciena to upgrade its mobile network to enable support across 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and ultra high-definition video.

By adding programmable capabilities to its network, Vodafone New Zealand said it will also better support enterprise customers, which will now be able to use a digital user interface to request additional capacity across the network.

The upgrade involved adding Ciena's Blue Planet Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) Domain Controller and Liquid Spectrum.

"Utilising technologies from Ciena, Vodafone New Zealand is unveiling an adaptable and agile network that can respond in real time to its customers' changing demands," Vodafone NZ said.

"With an adaptive network, Vodafone can better support a growing enterprise customer base that requires high-capacity connectivity as business applications and workloads increasingly move to public cloud services (SaaS/IaaS) and cloud datacentres both locally and internationally."

The upgrade followed Vodafone NZ earlier this year enabling 400Gbps speeds on its fibre network after deploying Ciena's WaveLogic Ai coherent optics, with Ciena last year telling ZDNet that it is helping telcos prepare for 5G by driving network resilience and performance through network function virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN).

Vodafone NZ had in March announced a 5G trial with Nokia, with the two companies showcasing use cases and implementations in Auckland.

The companies trialled a 5G connection at Vodafone NZ's Innov8 Auckland headquarters across the millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum band, with outgoing Vodafone NZ CEO Russell Stanners at the time saying they would next experiment with 5G across 3.5GHz spectrum.

Nokia provided its AirScale and Airframe platforms for the 5G trial, with the system connected to a device using third-party chipsets.

"As a leading global mobile player, Vodafone has been actively involved in leading and shaping the 5G evolution from the beginning, with trials and partnerships under way across the world," Stanners said at the time.

"Vodafone will continue to be at the forefront of the development of 5G, and with our Kiwi ingenuity we will be working hard to bring our customers the latest developments in 5G as soon as they become available."

Stanners said the 5G exhibition was "about showcasing how we can easily evolve our existing 4G and 4G+ networks to 5G".

"As 5G is an incremental upgrade to our existing mobile network, these services will be deployed throughout New Zealand in both urban and rural settings -- opening up a world of possibility for digital innovation everywhere," he said.

Vodafone NZ is also working to deploy a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network across New Zealand after trialling the technology with Nokia back in 2016.

The telco in September revealed a full-year profit drop of NZ$7.7 million down to NZ$39 million despite rising revenues, attributing the result to a "highly competitive market".

Revenue was up by NZ$5.1 million to NZ$2 billion off the back of increasing mobile customer numbers. Vodafone NZ said it added 92,000 customers over the last 12 months while rivals Spark gained 58,000 and 2degrees lost 27,000 customers.

Kogan.com will also be launching its mobile offerings in New Zealand off the back of the Vodafone NZ network for coverage after signing a partnership agreement with the telco in June.

Rival New Zealand carrier Spark in August announced that it is planning to deploy a 5G network to go live by 2020.

"We are undertaking detailed planning to 'map' expected 5G cell site densities in New Zealand and, as a result of this planning and the learnings we have taken from our 5G testing, we are forming a good understanding of how many new sites we will need for 5G, and where," Spark managing director Simon Moutter said.

"We have already begun a build program to increase the number of cell sites in our existing mobile network -- which will enable us to meet near-term capacity demand as well as lay the groundwork for network densification required for 5G.

"We will build New Zealand's best 5G network and we've already started laying the groundwork for that network so that once 5G spectrum is made available, we are in position to build our network and launch 5G services in short order."

The New Zealand Commerce Commission in September announced its decision to retain the power to regulate domestic mobile roaming, citing 5G as a primary reason.

"A new entrant might require a NR [national roaming] arrangement for rollout of 5G," the commission said.

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