'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.

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.

"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.

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:

Read more: Virgin Mobile network chaos affects millions

"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.

Read more: NBN Co appoints former Vodafone media exec to head corporate affairs

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

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