Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has kicked off its $1 billion plan to replace and upgrade 8000 of its network sites over the next 18 months, with residents along the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter region in NSW first to witness improvements in reception.
The parent company of mobile carriers Vodafone Australia and 3 Mobile announced the initiative in February following months of negative publicity about the capacity and performance of the telco’s network, which culminated in more than 20,000 users joining a class action suit against the company.
The network upgrade is expected to boost the company’s existing 2G and 3G coverage by replacing 5800 sites and replacing 2200 base stations with Huawei gear.
The upgrade will also prepare the telco for deployment of and LTE fourth-generation network, following in the footsteps of Telstra who has also flagged plans to launch its Ericsson-based LTE network by the end of this year.
The network upgrade is expected to kick off from next week, when the first five base stations will be upgraded in areas surrounding Ourimbah and Toukley along the NSW Central Coast. A further 39 base stations are likely to receive upgrades by the beginning of May, ahead of a six-week test of network performance.
Outages to mobile services lasting up to two hours are expected as the upgrades take place, but the telco confirmed emergency service calls would be available during these periods.
“The changes to our network equipment will happen overnight, but the actual improvements in network performance and experience will take a couple of months to be fully realised,” Vodafone chief technology officer, Michael Young, said.
Though towns north of Sydney were chosen as first to receive the network upgrades, a report from consumer advocacy group Vodafail released in January found the Sydney CBD to be worst off for 3G coverage from Vodafone, based on 16,000 submissions.
Of those areas affected by the imminent upgrade, the report noted Newcastle providing the highest number of submissions to the Vodafail report at 17, with 12 further submissions from residents in Woy Woy.
The report, which was delivered to larger advocacy groups and the competition watchdog, sparked VHA’s initial decision to rip-and-replace its network.
As sole carrier for the network upgrade, Huawei has stood to benefit most out of the deal with VHA, opening an office in South Australia, appointing a board of directors and building its local staff headcount to cope with the additional requirements.
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