Vodafone’s first 5G sites go live in Sydney's west

The telco also vows that 5G international roaming is 'coming soon'.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Vodafone has flicked the switch that turns on its first 5G sites, located in Sydney's western suburb of Parramatta.
The telco said switching on its Parramatta sites marks the start of its phased 5G rollout to more than 650 sites in other parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra, which are set to go live from mid-2020.  
"We have a number of people [at Parramatta] today using 500Mbps download speeds on our network that we will continue to develop over the years," Vodafone CEO Inaki Berroeta told media on Thursday.

"We have a very ambitious 5G rollout plan, and a lot of work ahead of us, but there's a lot of excitement around this offering. We will be offering this service to our existing customers on their existing plans, so there will be no extra charge for 5G. All of our customers will be provisioned on 5G as long as they have a 5G device, and as long our network gets developed in the different areas."

In addition, the telco said it will introduce 5G international roaming in the "coming months" as part of its AU$5 international roaming service. It will initially be available in five countries -- the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Ireland -- with the company saying, it will add more destinations over time. 
The telco will also begin selling its first 5G device, the Samsung Galaxy S20, from tomorrow.  
The announcement follows on from company's financial results last week where Vodafone said it would switch on its first 5G site "within weeks". The company said in December it had moved from using its LTE equipment provider Huawei to Nokia for its 5G network.

Despite going live with 5G, Berroeta told ZDNet it will be some time before there will be a significant switch from 4G to 5G devices. 

"Every time there is a technology change, it's always a long period of time where the previous technology is still available. For example, I think 2G has been removed from the Australian market just this year, and 2G is a technology that has been around since 1994 or 95. We still have a number of customers relying on 3G even today, and definitely 4G," he said.

"What happens is as new technology enters the market, the ecosystem of devices migrate to these new technologies but on average, customers in Australia would keep a device between 18-24 months. So, until all of these customers have gone into using new technologies the balance of traffic will be very much on the older technology, and that's why it'll take a year or a year-and-a-half until we see a significant of traffic move into 5G.

"How long will 4G stay in the market? I think 4G will stay in the market for many, many years. The good thing about 5G and 4G is there's much better consistency in terms of the technology from a software and operator perspective, but also from a customer perspective."

On Thursday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also confirmed it would not appeal the Federal Court's decision to allow Vodafone to merge with TPG, concluding it does not have the ground for appeal.
"The ACCC remains disappointed by this outcome, which has closed the door on what we consider was a once in a generation chance for increased competition in the highly concentrated mobile telecommunications market," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

Berroeta said the decision by the ACCC would mean the company can "quickly progress completion of the merger with TPG" , which is scheduled to be completed by July, subject to remaining regulatory and shareholder approvals.

"This is great news for us, this is great news for the merged company, and also we appreciate the ACCC has done this before the deadline for them to appeal," he said.

"We have nonetheless started many initiatives around this merger, and we want to make sure that from day one we can take full advantage of all this work that we've been doing around infrastructure integration and ... the work we've been doing with 5G." 

He also confirmed that under the merged company all current products offered by Vodafone and TPG will continue to exist, including Vodafone's fixed NBN broadband offering, even though TPG's delivers the same service through iiNet and Internode.

"What we anticipate is that this will be enhanced," Berroeta said.  

"In principle with the current situation of the brands and how customers are relating us, the different brands will remain. We don't expect to make any changes."

Berroeta also said the deal would allow it to speed up its 5G rollout.

"We have ambitious 5G rollout plans. The more quickly the merger can proceed, the faster we can deliver better competitive outcomes for Australian consumers and businesses," he said.

"Ultimately, consumers and businesses will be the big winners from this merger. After 18 months of uncertainty, we're excited to now be able to progress our plans."

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