VHA to replace network with Huawei kit

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has announced plans to rip and replace its entire network of 2G and 3G base station equipment following months of customer complaints about the quality of its service. The complete overhaul will see 2G equipment at every one of VHA’s 8,000 mobile base stations replaced with Huawei 3G kit, promising customers speeds of up to 42 Mbps while improving coverage.

More than 5,000 existing 2-and 3G base stations will be fitted out with Huawei’s SingleRAN offering, which is capable of providing 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE coverage. This is Huawei’s first radio access network win in Australia and, according to Ovum analysts, deals a big blow to incumbent vendors Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks.

On Tuesday morning, VHA CEO Nigel Dews apologised to customers, admitting that the company  had been too slow to react to the technical issues which have wreaked havoc on its network over the past six months. “The issues some customers have experienced included dropped calls, delayed SMS and voicemails, slow data speeds, inconsistent coverage and long waits when you called us,” said Dews. “Last year we were growing too fast and when some problems arose we responded too slowly.”

VHA will prioritise replacement at its most congested and highest demand sites first, with the remainder slated for upgrade within the next 18 months. Plans to deploy additional 3G tower sites and build a new 850MHz network will also be fast-tracked in a bid to improve services.

Vodafone and Huawei have undertaken live trials of LTE technology and preparation for an upgrade to LTE is underway, with the first services expected to come online later this year. ut according to Ovum analyst Nicole McCormick, VHA isn’t out of the woods yet. “This network overhaul is long overdue. Vodafone and Huawei will need to proceed quickly to deploy the network infrastructure, which includes 42Mbps HSPA+ at 850MHz, to address Vodafone’s network capacity issues.”

VHA was created from a merger in February 2009. The firm terminated a network share deal with Australian market leader Telstra last year.

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