FTTN or FTTP not important for NBN, Vodafone says

Vodafone's CEO, Bill Morrow, has said the NBN will help Australia's digital economy and whether it is FTTN or FTTP is not important.

Bill Morrow, CEO at Vodafone, has admitted the telco's network is not yet up to scratch and still needs improvements to meet customer needs.

Morrow told ABC TV’s <i>Inside Business</i> that “we have a ways to go to meet the need of our customers” and attributed network issues to Vodafone not keeping pace with the market.

However, he said the company is making a substantial investment in its network and improvements would be experienced between now and next year.

“I think there was a bit of misinformation that was within the company about the actual state of the network. And this is what we have now corrected by taking the latest technology by really examining precisely where our customers are,” Morrow said.

Vodafone is spending $1.7 billion upgrading its network, recently announcing all its base stations are now equipped with 3G+ equipment and are ready for 4G technology.

However, Hutchison earlier this year apologised to customers for problems on its network as it reported a customer loss of 178,000 in the first half of this year.

Morrow also told the program that how the National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolled out – fibre-to-the-premises versus fibre-to-the-node – is not important because the network will help to digitise Australia.

“I think either are going to still be good. You can argue some minor nuances between the two but doing it [is] really important for Australia. It'll help digitise the country, it'll help bring a new economy to bear. It will help the mobile services [and] it's going to help the consumer,” he said.

“So going forward down that path I think that what the regulators and the government did was fabulous. The question on the regulators of how they're dealing with this, I have some preferences. I'd like them to kind of gear more to help the challenger mobile brands to have backhaul quicker than what currently is on the road map.”

Morrow also reconfirmed Vodafone would be unlikely to make a bid at the digital dividend, but stated it would take a seat at the table to see what the prices were and how it worked.

“The reality is Vodafone [is] blessed with a bit spectral position. We have multiple spectrum bands available to us [due to the merger between Vodafone and 3]…” he said.

“So if you look at the evolution of [Vodafone and 3] from before, they've acquired spectrum in different areas. When you put them all together it is a very nice healthy deep position.”

Instead of bidding for the 700MHz spectrum, Morrow said Vodafone would operate its 4G technology in its 1800MHz spectrum, which it currently does not have traffic on, unlike Telstra and Optus which Morrow said need the 700MHz spectrum.

“So if I look at that and look at the high costs that I'm going to have to pay for the new spectrum auction in front of us, the economics are kind of hard to justify spending any large amount of money on spectrum,” he said.

While analysts have said Vodafone is not short on spectrum, Mark Gregory, senior lecturer at RMIT University, told Computerworld Australia Vodafone will struggle in the 4G wars.

“The problem for Vodafone, and it’s been written in the press many times, is that they’re just trying to stabilise and improve their 3G offering at a time when the other two are going to 4G,” Gregory said.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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