Vodafone Hutchison Australia selected Ericsson to modernise its core network and prepare for the launch of VoLTE trials later this year and a full commercial rollout early next year.
The company’s CTO Benoit Hanssen said its current 4G networks focus on supporting faster data services. “But no Australian network offers voice calls on its 4G network, and our new core network will enable us to do that,” he noted.
The company aims for its 4G network to cover 95 per cent of the country’s metropolitan population by the end of the year by using its 850MHz spectrum. Its 4G network is now live in selected metro areas in about nine cities.
The core network upgrade is part of a five-year, multi-billion-dollar investment aimed at improving service quality to stay competitive as incumbent Telstra continues to gain market share (now at 53 per cent). Vodafone’s share has dropped to 17 per cent from 20 per cent a year ago, according to GSMA Intelligence. A quarter of Vodafone’s and Optus’ connections are 4G while 33 per cent, or 5.4 million, of Telstra’s are 4G.
As part of the overall modernisation plan, Vodafone will move to a fully virtualised core network using network functions virtualisation (NFV) technology to boost network agility and flexibility.
There has been a flurry of VoLTE activity in the US and Asia in past weeks with AT&T, Bouygues Telecom, HKT, NTT Docomo, SingTel and T-Mobile US each declaring that they have either recently launched commercial VoLTE or are on the verge of doing so.
They join South Korea’s three major network operators, and Metro PCS (now part of T-Mobile US), which were first out of the VoLTE traps back in August 2012.
Vodafone UK has also successfully tested VoLTE in the lab, but has not committed to a timeframe for commercial launch.