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Vodafone quadruples 4G network capacity in Canberra

Vodafone has upgraded 84 network sites using its 1800MHz spectrum from the auction, and plans to upgrade a further 19 sites in the next year.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Vodafone Australia has concluded a "major network upgrade" on its 4G network in Canberra, using the 1800MHz spectrum it secured during the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) auction earlier this year.

Vodafone spent AU$68 million to secure 11x 1800MHz spectrum in February: Four lots in the Australian Capital Territory, for AU$37 million; two lots in North Queensland, for AU$7.75 million; one lot in South Queensland, for AU$7.91 million; two lots in Tasmania, for AU$12.87 million; and two lots in Regional Western Australia, for AU$2.5 million.

Using the spectrum, Vodafone has upgraded 84 network sites to 1800MHz 4G to increase capacity by fourfold, and plans to upgrade another 19 sites over the next year.

"A great deal of work has been put into improving network performance in Canberra," said Vodafone CTO Kevin Millroy.

"Through our investments, we have been able to drive a wide range of upgrades to deliver greater reliability, speed, and performance. If you look at where people live and work, Vodafone is on par with major rivals."

Millroy added that Vodafone is also constructing its fibre network across Canberra to ensure it is prepared for 5G, ahead of the telco's lab trial of 5G next week with Nokia.

"In addition to upgrading our 4G network in Canberra, we have also started rolling out fibre with the aim of providing faster, more reliable connectivity in the future," the CTO said.

Vodafone also refarmed its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, New South Wales, and the ACT at the end of last year; upgraded more than 3,300 network sites over the course of 2015; and recently committed to spending AU$9 million on constructing 32 mobile base stations across the country to improve telecommunications coverage in regional areas.

It also proposed 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 ACMA auction that it did not take part in.

In April, Vodafone announced that its 4G network covers 95.3 percent of the Australian population, or 22 million people. Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta said this signalled a 40 percent rise in its network size over the past four years.

Vodafone is also offering a money-back 30-day network satisfaction guarantee for all consumers and small business customers with up to nine connections.

According to an OpenSignal report from June, Vodafone now matches Telstra in terms of the availability of its 4G network.

"Though Telstra outperformed in speed, the country's smallest operator Vodafone kept pace with the Australian giant when it came to offering a consistent LTE connection," the report said.

"Vodafone and Telstra were statistically tied in network availability, at 76 percent."

Vodafone was also tied first for 4G latency, at 54.71ms, and 3G download speeds, at 4.76Mbps, and took the prize for best 3G latency, at 72.02ms. It had the slowest download speed over 4G, however, at 18.49Mbps, while Optus stood at 19.18Mbps and Telstra at 23.6Mbps.

Telstra in July also announced using the 1800MHz spectrum it bought during the ACMA's auction to boost its 4G network by up to 50 percent across 200 sites in North Queensland and South Australia.

The areas seeing the speed boost include Cairns, Townsville, Ayr, Innisfail, Port Douglas, Mossman, Ingham, and Charters Towers in North Queensland; and Ceduna, Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Victor Harbour, Goolwa, Renmark, Mount Gambier, and Robe in South Australia.

Telstra paid almost triple the amount spent by Vodafone during the 1800MHz auction -- AU$191 million -- to secure five lots of spectrum in Darwin for AU$5.58 million; six lots in North Queensland for AU$18.24 million; five lots in Central Queensland for AU$10.09 million; four lots in South Queensland for AU$36.63 million; five lots in Northern NSW for AU$14.82 million; five lots in Western NSW for AU$7.96 million; two lots in the ACT for AU$17.22 million; five lots in Southern NSW/Riverina for AU$15.13 million; four lots in Regional Victoria for AU$28.15 million; four lots in Tasmania for AU$22.67 million; six lots in Regional SA for AU$7.44 million; and five lots in Regional WA for AU$6.01 million.

Telstra's 4G network now reaches 98 percent of the Australian population, with plans to reach 99 percent by mid-2017.

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