Vodafone and its managed service provider Ericsson are rolling out a major upgrade of the operator’s London network infrastructure. Vodafone has more than 500 sites in the capital and is upgrading every one across central London and the M4 corridor.
Work began in September with 25 sites a day being upgraded until the end of the year. Existing 2G and 3G equipment is being upgraded into single boxes, which freeing up space, cutting energy emissions by up to 30% and future proofing the site for the next generation of equipment such as LTE.
The full upgrade should be finished in ‘a few months’, according to Jeni Mundy, Vodafone’s chief technical officer. The operator is spending around £1m a day across its whole network.
Mundy said the upgrade programme, known as Boudicca, is designed to boost capacity, speed and coverage. ‘There has been a major growth in smartphone and data usage,’ she said. ‘To handle that you need to have a smart network. We have to stay one step ahead and future proof the network for the next generation of equipment.’
The upgrades are being carried out by Ericsson with a third of the work being done at night. Ericsson has two separate contracts with Vodafone. One to provide 2G and most of its 3G equipment (Alcatel Lucent supplies some 3G equipment in the north of the UK) and another for managed services, such as installations, upgrades and maintenance.
Mundy pointed out that Europe-wide smartphone penetration was 16% at the end of September 2010 across Vodafone’s networks, compared with 10% in 2009. Vodafone’s European target is at least 35% penetration by 2013. But in the UK, the figure is expected to be 25% by the end of March 2011.
Mundy added: ‘More than 70% of new Vodafone UK customers take a smartphone. Data traffic on the UK network has doubled in the last 12 months and smartphone data has grown by 75% year on year.’
London leads Europe in terms of early adoption of smartphones. More than a third of Vodafone consumers (both contract and pay-as-you-go) use 3G phones. More than half of the operator’s contract customers in London are using a smartphone today. In addition, there are more iPhone and BlackBerry users in London than anywhere else in the UK.
Hence Vodafone’s decision to upgrade London first. Mundy said other parts of the country would follow, but would not been drawn on where yet.
Vodafone’s London network carries 7.5 billion voice calls and a similar number of text messages a year. The operator says some 19,000 different types of phone and device access the network each month in the capital.