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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.

TB: We will be doing some trials with self-optimising networks and heterogeneous networks (hetnet) in this fiscal year, which is 31st March for us. We are in the process of getting kit in. It will go on from a trial to a full rollout. That's the way they usually head.

We are also doing a VoLTE (Voice over LTE) trial this calendar year. That's our first step to IMS (IP multimedia subsystem). With the Telstra Clear acquisition we have got a whole pile of legacy switching equipment. We have got legacy switching on the Vodafone mobile side. We are seeing all those switching equipment coming together with IMS over the next couple of years.

So there is a huge infrastructure investment coming through. Ultimately you will be able to have landlines, mobiles, all using the same technology.

Every year we invest hundreds of millions of dollars in standard network equipment and then we get additional funding for things like spectrum purchases. So it spikes for those things. IMS and VoLTE — I will be absorbing it in the existing envelope.

We do have the best network and download speeds on Vodafone here from across the world, so a lot our suppliers see our network in NZ as a potential for a trial of new technologies. So we get some quite good commercial deals for these trials.

Q: Do you have flexibility in adding to your suppliers from local firms? Or is it often only a global process?

TB: When it comes to commercial rollouts we have the Vodafone procurement company, which is a Vodafone department that does global contracts with various buyers. That means we get standard terms and conditions on warranties and other elements. When it comes to trials of new technologies we talk to our suppliers directly. For example we have done the 400GBps wavelength trial in February — that was a world first - for our fibre optic network.

We have done the 700MHz trial, we are doing hetnet and VoLTE and so on. A lot of that is us talking to our suppliers and saying hey we are aheda of the pack and do you want to be a part of that? And they very often say yes.

Some suppliers we introduce to Vodafone Group, if they are doing something innovative. So if we find an NZ supplier, maybe through our innovation lab that will soon be a part of our Christchurch office, and they are somebody with world class M2M capability, we will introduce them to the group. We have done that before.

But the group tends to have a global panel of suppliers. Then we go through the panel and choose the ones that make the most sense for us locally, either because of technology, or competitive pricing or in-country support. There are a whole range of reasons we might choose one above the other for NZ.


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