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Vodafone: 100% population coverage in NZ with current terrestrial technology 'unlikely'

Sathya Mithra Ashok | July 25, 2014
Tony Baird, head of networks at Vodafone NZ paints a picture of how the provider's services could improve in the future, and the ways in which the company is working to improve telecommunications skill levels in NZ.

I would say the biggest limitations are the geography of NZ, power and what you can do for backhaul.

Q: How far is Wi-Fi coverage a part of your strategy?

TB: Wi-Fi is interesting. In my opinion it has been a stopgap because I guess it's the way plans have been constructed. It doesn't work as well as 4G; 4G works a lot better than Wi-Fi. Working on the ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) band, Wi-Fi can get congested, because that is free for anybody to use. You get a lot of interference. Our Wi-Fi supplier has a very good product and what we see in the long term is seamless integration of WiFi with 4G and 3G technologies, and that is what we have been working on. Ultimately, you won't notice one day, whether you are on Wi-Fi or 4G.

We will have seamless integration from a technology perspective later this year. Some of the Wi-Fi products that are coming now you can retune the radio frequencies to be the same as the frequency you have purchased, and which is not the ISM band. You need to be able to do some smart things with that. You can have an in-building business solution when you are around the building and then when you are in the macro environment it can be another solution. I see a lot of convergence around there.

Much of the launch of converged solutions is going to be commercially driven, and is based on how Vodafone wants to compete in the marketplace. That is a bit outside my department to comment upon.

Q: What do you think the government should be doing to ensure ubiquitous coverage in the country?

TB: My view is that NZ has done a very good job with connectivity. We have got 4.5 million people. We have a landmass that is approximately the same as GB and that has 70 million people. And we are doing things like RBI. We have satellite communications, got 4G, we have got the fastest mobile network in the world, got UFB (ultra-fast broadband) initiative. We have got a pretty good kitbag of parts to do a very good solution.

The real question is how do we stitch it all together to make it a seamless experience. That is something that needs to be worked on and I am sure it will be worked on. But as far as technologies go, we have a pretty good range.

If you look at Vodafone alone, we have got satellite, we have got hybrid fibre coaxial cable, we have got VDSL, ADSL and other products. We have got fibre to the business and home — in fact we are doing an active Ethernet trial in Pegasus town. We have iPTV, right through to 4G and Wifi.


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