Vodafone NZ plans on trialling self-optimising networks and heterogeneous networks (hetnet) in this fiscal year.
“We are in the process of getting kit in. It will go on from a trial to a full rollout. That’s the way they usually head,” head of networks at Vodafone NZ, Tony Baird said..
“We are also doing a Voice over LTE [VoLTE ] trial this calendar year. That’s our first step to IP multimedia subsystem [IMS]. With the Telstra Clear acquisition we have got a whole pile of legacy switching equipment. We are seeing all those switching equipment coming together with IMS over the next couple of years
“There is a huge infrastructure investment coming through. Ultimately you will be able to have landlines, mobiles, all using the same technology,” Baird said.
The company would look to expand its national 4G coverage across all the spectrums it owns, following its recent launch of commercial services on the 700MHz spectrum., he said.
“Over the next few years our focus will be really on making sure that the 4G footprint is national. We will be at about 65 per cent population coverage really soon. We are over 60 per cent today. To get the first 50 per cent is quite simple, to get the last 50 per cent it is very hard. You will be seeing the vast majority of our spectrum holdings being used for 4G,” Baird said.
Speaking about Wi-Fi as part of the company’s strategy, he said, “What we see in the long term is seamless integration of Wi-Fi with 4G and 3G technologies, and that is what we have been working on. Ultimately, you won’t notice one day, whether you are on Wi-Fi or 4G. We will have seamless integration from a technology perspective later this year.
“Some of the Wi-Fi products that are coming now you can retune the radio frequencies to be the same as the frequency you have purchased, and which is not the industrial, scientific, medical [ISM] band. You need to be able to do some smart things with that. You can have an in-building business solution when you are around the building and then when you are in the macro environment it can be another solution. I see a lot of convergence around there,” he added.
The company will look to grow employee strength in NZ, mostly for its recently announced Christchurch office, and personnel could be sourced from within or outside the country, according to Baird.
"We are looking for IP expertise. IP qualified resources have always been hard for us to get. I would say every time we hire we look locally and externally. I would say at least 50 per cent would be non-NZ citizens. They might already be in the country, and we hire them. Or they want to immigrate to NZ and we hire them,” he said.
Vodafone NZ has an apprenticeship programme that it started around 18 months ago, and plans are afoot to expand and add to it through partnerships with educational institutions.
“We are working with an institute in Auckland now to put together an IP course. Our apprentices will come out with a diploma in tech communications and one of them gets a scholarship to go to one of the universities for a further engineering course. So we would take somebody from school and see them go right through to being university qualified.
“This will help develop our organic skill sets in the country, which I enjoy doing. We hope to have that course up and running as soon as possible. The course will potentially be offered in Auckland. It is supposed to be national ultimately,” stated Baird.
Vodafone is also planning on enabling an innovation lab in its Christchurch office which will house start-ups working on mobility solutions, and give them the ability to connect and use Vodafone’s network and resources.
“The Vodafone group has a global panel of suppliers. But some suppliers we do introduce to the group. We have done this before, especially if they are doing something innovative. So if we find an NZ supplier, maybe through our innovation lab that will soon be a part of our Christchurch office, and they are somebody with world class M2M capability, we will introduce them to the group,” he said.