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Vodafone Australia CEO sees network improvement in 2013

Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow believes the company's troubled mobile network will be vastly improved by the end of 2013.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) CEO Bill Morrow has admitted that the company still has a way to go before its network is meeting customer demands, but has said that improvements should be noticed over the next year.

Morrow, in his first TV interview since becoming the new CEO of VHA earlier this year, told ABC1's Inside Business that in 2010, the customer demand for coverage for smartphones got ahead of where the network was at, which was why the network became plagued with call drop-outs and a lack of broadband coverage across the board.

"It wasn't that long ago that Vodafone was at the top of the mark. I mean, we had one of the highest brand-preference score amongst consumers, and I think reality is that the market got ahead of us," he said.

It has cost the company dearly, with Vodafone reporting a loss of AU$260.2 million in the first six months of 2012. The company also lost approximately 700,000 customers between 2010 and 2012, sliding from 7.5 million to 6.8 million as of June this year.

Initially, Vodafone did not come clean to customers about the problems facing the network, and Morrow said that this was an internal communications issue.

"I think there was a bit of misinformation within the company about the actual state of the network, and this is what we have now corrected," he said.

But with the company now investing billions into the network, improvements are coming, Morrow said.

"It'll come in stages between now and next year. I mean, already some of our customers are telling us that they feel a difference, but it is not there yet,' the chief executive said. "By taking the latest technology, by really examining the places our customers are, we've really dropped down to the postcode level to understand the customers that are there.

"We now know the state [the network is in] and where we need to be, and that is the plan. By the end of next year, you're going to see a real difference."

Morrow reiterated the company's intention to sit in on the digital dividend auction process in order to "see what the prices are," but said that the company isn't really in need of spectrum for 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services, which it plans on launching early next year.

"We have 30MHz of spectrum [in the 1800MHz spectrum band], and that is perfect for LTE in the 4G bands. We don't really have any traffic on it, and it is something we can take advantage of," he said.

Vodafone has also been trialling customers on the National Broadband Network (NBN), and Morrow said that the project is a "fabulous thing," but indicated that he would be open to the Coalition's alternative of a fibre-to-the-node project over fibre to the premises.

"When I see what Australia is doing with the NBN, I just think it is the perfect model to go forward," he said. "You can argue the nuances of whether it is to the node, or to the home, those things are not important. I think either are going to still be good [but] doing it is really good for Australia."

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