Vodafone to launch Voice over WiFi ‘shortly’, CEO says

Telco chief repeats call for regulatory reform

Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta,

Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta,

Vodafone is preparing to offer Voice over Wi-FI – VoWIFI – to its customers “shortly”, the telco’s CEO, Iñaki Berroeta, yesterday told the CommsDay Summit in Sydney.

VoWIFI may seem like a “gadget,” the CEO said, but the technology allows the Vodafone network to be extended in a transparent manner to anywhere a customer’s device can access a Wi-Fi network.

“I really think this is a significant technology breakthrough for the customer,” Berroeta said.

(VoWiFI is on Telstra’s mobile roadmap and the telco last year launched a mobile app that allows smartphones to act as landline handsets on NBN connections. Optus last year began offering customers the opportunity to make voice calls and send text messages over Wi-Fi.)

Vodafone in December began moving its 4G customers to Voice over LTE (VoLTE) on the back of the upgrade to its core network.

Investment in the telco’s network has been a core part of Vodafone’s turnaround journey and remains fundamental to its growth, Berroeta told the CommsDay Summit.

“We started this journey by completely rebuilding and enhancing the infrastructure in our network, optimising the usage of spectrum for 4G and migrating to a new state-of-the-art core network,” he said in remarks prepared for the conference.

“For our customers, this means a better data experience through greater agility and flexibility.

“4G has fundamentally changed the patterns of use on our mobile network. And the speeds of this 4G network together with the capabilities of new smartphone have dramatically increased demand for mobile data.”

Read more: Vodafone completes rollout of 4G across its network

The telco announced this week it had completed the refarming of its spectrum holdings in the 850MHz band for 4G.

“The re-farming of our 850 spectrum means that Vodafone 4G now covers more than 95 per cent of the Australian population – that’s around 23 million people who can now enjoy our 4G network,” Berroeta said.

Carrier aggregation is available on over half of Vodafone’s network, the telco CEO said.

Berroeta used his speech to repeat Voadfone’s calls for regulatory reform of the telco sector; in particular the backhaul market and the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

“Monopoly transmission services outside of major cities have been insufficiently regulated,” the CEO said. “It’s a situation which can’t continue.”

“This situation we currently face is unsustainable – it is costing regional customers dearly – because it is preventing Vodafone and other players from investing in regional Australia,” Berroeta said.

In relation to the USO, a long standing bugbear for Vodafone, the CEO said that the Productivity Commission review of the system must result in “real and meaningful change”.

Berroeta praised the government’s mobile blackspot program as an example of an initiative that would lead to positive results for telecommunications in regional Australia.

Vodafone yesterday released the full rollout schedule for the 70 base stations it will build as part of the first round of the program.

Full details are available from the telco’s blog.

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