Vodafone begins bringing 3G to voice-only areas; launches new enterprise group

1 May 2013

Vodafone's head of Enterprise Customer Solutions Steve MacNicholas with Anne O'Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland

Ahead of the launch of 4G and enabled by winning its share of the spectrum auctions last year, Vodafone Ireland’s new CEO Anne O’Leary has announced the first locations where former 2G-only voice services existed will be converted to 3G. She also unveiled the company’s new €25m Enterprise Customer Solutions division.

O’Leary, the first Irish person to hold the role of Vodafone Ireland CEO, said she competed for the role against executives from all over Europe.

She said Vodafone has invested €1bn in its Irish network during the past few years of recession and that it will be investing a further €500m in the coming years to bring 3G data to 2G voice areas, as well as providing 4G across the country.

Late last year, ComReg awarded 4G spectrum licences to four mobile operators: Hutchison 3G, Eircom (Meteor/eMobile), Telefónica Ireland (O2) and Vodafone.

Vodafone, which paid €160.8m up front with €119.7m following up to 2030, acquired by far the largest portion of the spectrum available in the 800MHz, 900MHz and 1,800MHz ranges.

“Being Irish and from Cork I am committed to what we need to do,” O’Leary said on what was her first formal public engagement as the new CEO of Vodafone Ireland.

“In terms of investment, we go and we battle for our bits of investment and I’m proud to say that nearly €1bn worth of revenue has been invested in the network. The feedback we get from customers is that it’s grand having the latest devices but they need to get work done. I personally feel responsible for Ireland and I want to help Ireland progress and we can do that by having the best network.”

One of the upshots of the spectrum licences is mobile operators like Vodafone will be able to take advantage of the former 2G and analogue TV spectrum (800MHz and 900MHz) to bring 3G broadband services to areas that previously were unable to access 3G mobile data.

“Today we are going to switch on three sites in Donegal with UMTS 900. By mid-May, we will do the same in Waterford and the south-east.

“Anywhere there is voice now you will get data. Most of the handsets out there are 3G and we want to make sure that prepay and postpay smartphone customers can experience the best and the fastest networks.”

O’Leary said 4G services will launch in the autumn. “We are going to launch 4G first in Kilkenny and we will roll it out in the larger cities of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick after that.”

She said consumers today are seeking tariffs that aren’t complex and the recent introduction of the RED price range has been the most successful consumer launch in the company’s history.

“We want to get away from misunderstandings around mobile tariffs and instead offer services that make it simpler for customers and which build loyalty.”

Vodafone launches new Enterprise Customer Solutions division

O’Leary pointed out that in recent years Vodafone acquired InterFusion Networks and Complete Telecom and has invested a total of €25m locally to expand its capabilities in the fixed-line space.

This is also in tandem with Vodafone’s global acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which will give the mobile operator’s business customers access to an international network footprint.

Vodafone’s new Enterprise Customer Solutions (ECS) division will be responsible for designing, delivering and supporting complex integrated telecommunications solutions for business customers, making it easier for customers who can now have a single provider for all their telecommunications requirements.  

ECS will provide services such as managed WAN (IPVPN), cloud and IP PBX, systems integration and security solutions in addition to the company’s complete portfolio of mobile data and solutions. The department will be led by Steve MacNicholas, founder of Interfusion Networks.

“Vodafone is now a truly integrated telecommunications provider for Irish businesses and our ability to combine mobility with fixed infrastructure is our key differentiator,” MacNicholas said.

“We have invested significantly to build our expertise in this space, and we will further enhance our nationwide network to bring data to all areas that currently have voice and also bring 4G services to market,” he added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years