Vodafone refarms 3G spectrum to boost 4G services

Vodafone is preparing to refarm spectrum in the 2100MHz spectrum for use in 4G services, starting from next week.

The telco currently uses 2100MHz to deliver 3G services around Australia, except for the ACT where it already uses the band for 4G. From 18 March, Vodafone will begin refarming the spectrum in New South Wales for use with 4G devices.

Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia will receive the same treatment later on this year.

Vodafone says that a small number of its customers may own 2100MHz-only 3G devices, which will no longer work after the upgrade process is complete.

“Our customers are using more and more data - more than 90 per cent of our mobile customers use the 4G network with 4G data usage across our network increased by 58 per cent during 2018,” said Vodafone’s CTO, Kevin Millroy, in a statement.

“This upgrade work will ensure the 4G network gets a capacity boost, so more of our customers can use their data to stream their favourite content or use social media, while still keeping our 3G network strong.”

Vodafone’s 4G network also uses spectrum in the 1800MHz and 850MHz bands. Its 3G network will continue to operate in the 900MHz band.

Vodafone in late 2017 switched off its 2G network, which used the 900MHz band. It was the last of Australia’s three mobile network operators to kill off 2G, with Telstra ending its support for 2G in late 2016 and Optus in early 2017.

Last year Vodafone picked up 3.6GHz spectrum for use in 5G services. The telco teamed up with TPG in a joint venture to bid in a government auction for the spectrum, spending $263 million for 131 lots in metro and regional areas.

The joint venture was formed as Vodafone and TPG launched a merger process to create a new ASX-listed telco that would combine Vodafone’s mobile network assets with TPG’s fixed-line footprint. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is still deciding whether to give the proposed merger its blessing.

TPG was in the process of rolling out its own mobile network using its spectrum holdings but has since ditched the plan; however, it has indicated that if the merger with Vodafone goes ahead the merged entity will be able to leverage the mobile infrastructure it has already rolled out.

Vodafone is preparing to make a key decision on the vendor or vendors for its rollout of a 5G network, following an Australian government decision to ban the use of Huawei technology for the next-generation cellular standard.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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