'We've got the top performing network in Australia': Vodafone

New CEO, Iñaki Berroeta, believes the errors of the past have been corrected

New Vodafone CEO, Iñaki Berroeta

New Vodafone CEO, Iñaki Berroeta

New Vodafone Australia CEO, Iñaki Berroeta, isn't planning to make any drastic changes to the three-year plan his predecessor put in place, but believes reliability and capacity issues have been resolved and that it is now the top performing network in Australia.

As Australia's third largest mobile network operator, Vodafone has been losing customers since a series of outages in 2010 damaged the brand, which remains a leader in most of its international markets.

Berroeta admitted that Vodafone Australia had "suffered significant problems over the past two years", but said it was on the road to recovery, and that his company remains an important part of the Australian telco landscape, as the Australian market "needs more competition" outside the big two.

A Vodafone spokesperson confirmed that the subscriber decline has 'significantly reduced' but still has not stopped. Late last year former CEO, Bill Morrow, said this decline will have stopped by mid-2014, according to the company's three year business strategy. Berroeta confirmed that he is not putting his own mark on the company just yet, and has no plans to make any drastic changes to this strategy.

As wins, Vodafone Australia is now boasting 96 per cent network coverage (across 2G, 3G and 4G networks), and has passed one million 4G LTE customers in the market. Berroeta claims 40 per cent consumer market share in Sydney.

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Its roaming plans have also been successful, its $5 a day plan driving a 700 per cent increase in data usage overseas. Vodafone claims it is now available in 47 countries, something it is pressing as a key advantage over rivals. Strategically, the company has said it will look to compete on data, rather than coverage.

However, when asked if this was history repeating itself, with regards to 2010's outage being related to excessive data bandwidth usage on its network, the answer was clear:

"There is no way history is going to repeat itself. I guarantee it," Berroeta said.

Vodafone CTO, Benoit Hansen, said that the company's core network upgrade is complete, and that the company now has 1200 LTE sites. As of March it was adding 100 sites per month, and expects to ramp this up to 140 sites p/m before reaching 300 sites p/m by year end.

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"We're in very good shape in terms of the network, we're continuing to build that footprint, we're continuing to build out our LTE services," he said.

"We've always taken a very conservative view of our LTE coverage. We don't want to disappoint people."

He also claimed that Vodafone's in-building coverage had tripled, with much better 3G penetration.

"In terms of network reliability, in terms of call success, in terms of data on phones, we are pretty much topping the charts within the Vodafone group. We are completely where we need be. We have one of the top performing networks in the world, in the Vodafone group. We've got the top performing network here in Australia," said Hansen.

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The company would not reveal any information regarding future technologies, such as Voice over LTE plans (VoLTE), but Hansen said this was more an issue in terms of handset availability. He would not be drawn further.

However, Berroeta said he is happy with the company's spectrum assets ahead of the next spectrum auction.

"In Australia,we are quite privileged in terms of the amount of spectrum that the players have, in general. I'm quite happy with the spectrum we have. We have a significant amount of spectrum, and if we are clever we can use it very well."

When asked about its enterprise plans going forward, Berroeta told ARN that these plans would be unveiled at a later date. A spokesperson clarified that it is currently sticking to a 'one size fits all' model:

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"Our focus in the enterprise space is targeted at employees with bring your own device [BYOD] benefits, which is a growing segment."

There are no plans to engage the channel further at this point: "There aren't any major changes being made by Iñaki; we are two years into a three-year strategy and not about to shift focus now."

Vodafone already offers double the data of its rivals at comparable prices, a key growth area. Its AU-partner, Hutchison, successfully used this model in the UK market to bring the Three Mobile brand back to contention after a series of network failures.

A spokesperson told ARN there were no plans to roll out unlimited data packages at this stage.

Allan Swann is a Senior Editor at IDG Communications Australia. Follow Allan on Twitter @allanswann, and at Google+.

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10 Comments

Andy

1

If Voda can still maintain their so called data speeds and quality of service when they finally match the same coverage of the Australian population as Optus and Telstra, then they can have something to boast about. Until then, there is no validation to their claims as their tests do not match apples with apples.

Voda lets see you run the same test again with the same coverage and subscribers on the network as the other two carriers and lets see what you get. Bet it will markedly different.

Paul the Prophet

2

Vodafone may be correct in its claims, however, their network footprint is so tiny that if you blink you will miss out on such great performance.

Cowboy

3

When you have four people using your 4G network, I'd expect performance to be pretty good.

Jack

4

The recent mobile network claims by Optus and the punative action they have faced should serve as a warning to Vodafone about making unsubstantiated claims to the market.

Fix your abysmal network performance and coverage first before you try and woo the public back. It's obvious to most observers why you are still losing customers.

allan_swann

Staff

5

No matter what your thoughts on Vodafone's network progress, the market definitely needs a strong third competitor. Yes the network quality is high over here, but so are the shocking monthly subscription costs. You don't want to end up with the revolting, high price, low quality network duopoly you see in New Zealand, for example.

Chris

6

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
I am so thankful i left Vodafone early this year for Boost (Telstra network).

Travel anywhere out of metro Melbourne and fight to get reception with Vodafone, it was INFURIATING!
Aside from that, you pay more and get less now than ever on their service.

The only reason the networks have probably increased is because of the max exodus from the shit network.

Jack

7

I don't believe any of us are arguing that Vodafone should not be a viable competitor, possibly the contrary ... We want to see completition on an equitable basis. This will take commitment and investment before they then run a story claiming a new degree of credibility.

Dave

8

I find the new Vodafone bosses comments more than a little optimistic. As a Vodafone user through direction rather than choice I still suffer call dropouts right across the metropolitanarea and 'try again' messages when trying to send SMS and MMS. As for a Vodafone enterprise strategy, again my feedback as a business user is that the fundamentals of good coverage and reliable data are still missing from Vodafone. When you can't drive across Sydney without experiencing dropouts then you have a fundamental issue with your network and not a product that you can confidently sell to business users. Telstra and Optus need competition, no argument. But simply claiming this as a reason to use Vodafone is ridiculous. As soon as my company goes BYOD later this year I will be heading straight for the nearest Telstra shop as will dozens of my fellow workers. You have a long way to go Vodafone....

sbd

9

Just don't mention coverage. The problems of previous years aside, I left Vodafone 10 years ago, well before the networks meltdown, when I moved to Yarra Valley, 40 minutes from Melbourne. Just walking around the house garden, coverage hopped between 5 different towers, none of them particularly good, although they were impressively up to 30km away. Indoors was restricted to a couple of hotspots (suffering static and barely functional).

Note to Vodafone... you can't claim 96% when that requires a subscriber go to the top of the nearest hill, touch their nose and stand on one foot to get reception. Current coverage map barely loads for my area, so even the website has poor coverage, one tile indicates outdoor reception, at a certain zoom level the rest implies ALL of Melbourne is uncovered (an unusually accurate admission/depiction)

Zeb

10

This is a classic example of the CEO being told what he wants to hear by his senior management as opposed to the reality of what is taking place in the real world (market).

I speak from experience as a Vodafone user, your network is well short of award worthy. I undertsand that it is your job as CEO to maintain a positive outlook, however to the hundreds of thousands of users that experience your service issues on a regular basis, claiming that your network is in 'very good shape' is frustrating and insulting in the extreme.

Mr Berroeta I suggest rather than taking briefings from your senior management about how your network is performing that you instead jump in your car and drive across Sydney in peak hour in the mornings and evenings and try and hold calls. Then try and send a little data between let's say 6.00pm and 8.00pm and see what charts you are actually topping...

Telstra and Optus indeed need competition, but you need to actually compete with them in the key areas of speed, coverage and reliability. Simply claiming that they need competitors isn't enough. Your customers have spoken and voted with their feet. Vodafone in general offers the most competitive plans in the market yet you are still suffering subscriber losses and have been for more than 2 years. If that isn't black and white consumer feedback I'm not sure what is.

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