Vodafone’s UK CEO says that it’s in no rush to launch headline-grabbing up to 400Mbps 4G services.
Taking a sideswipe at rivals EE, Vodafone’s Jeroen Hoencamp said: “I’d rather [roll out 4G] at the pace we’re doing and get it right, than try to go faster and build a thin and flimsy network.”
Vodafone’s 4G network is currently available to roughly 50 per cent of the UK’s population whereas EE’s 4G services can reach around 80 per cent of Brits.
Coverage figures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, at least according to Hoencamp.
“For us it’s about having the strongest network,” Hoencamp says. “One of the things that makes us different from others is that we have our ‘low band spectrum’. What that means is that our 4G is on a lower frequency, which travels further and deeper indoors. Forget all the technicalities, though: all it means is that we can offer great indoor coverage
By low-band spectrum, Hoencamp is referring to the 800MHz Vodafone won in the 4G spectrum auction and the 900MHz licence already Vodafone owns.
In a nutshell, the means Vodafone can in theory reach more customers without having to build as many extra towers. Signals on lower frequencies can travel for longer distances, which is one of the reasons UK networks were so keen to bag licences to use 800MHz for 4G in the auction.
So Vodafone can in theory promise stronger 4G reception indoors than EE, despite having a smaller population footprint.
While that may be true, it ignores EE’s plans to launch an ‘inside-out network’ with BT.
This would see future BT Home Hub wireless routers doubling as mini mobile masts, giving an extra signal boost to home customers. It’s something TalkTalk, which uses O2’s network to power TalkTalk Mobile, is hoping to achieve as well.
Following BT’s acquisition of EE’s mobile and home broadband business the UK’s biggest ISP will have over 8 million fixed-line customers. This gives it the opportunity to boost indoor coverage without having to set up more masts.
This will require EE and BT to concentrate on getting the handover on calls transitioning from WiFi to cellular (and vice versa) working seamlessly.
Hoencamp also said that racing to launch up to 300Mbps+ services was futile, as right now customers don’t need anything beyond 20Mbps to stream video on phones.
While EE is only planning to deliver this in high capacity venues like Wembley Stadium (at least initially) this statement looks over the fact that Vodafone promised to triple current 4G speeds with the launch of LTE-Advanced services last October.