It is the second major deal Ericsson has announced in Australia this week. On Monday it signed Telstra up for a three year extension of its backbone optic fibre network, in conjunction with partner Ciena.
The deal will see VHA completely modernise and consolidate its core network with Ericsson. “This will allow us to utilise the world’s most technologically advanced telecommunications infrastructure,” said Benoit Hanssen, VHA’s chief technology officer.
“The new core network will offer greater network agility and flexibility, create cost efficiencies, and enable the introduction of new 4G LTE services,” Hanssen said. Among these will be the introduction of voice over 4G (also known as VoLTE), which Hanssen said VHA plans to launch in 2015 following trials later this year.
“Current 4G networks primarily focus on providing faster data services,” said Hanssen. “Customers have rapidly adopted 4G smartphones, which offer very fast data speeds. But no Australian network is offering voice calls on its 4G network, and our new core network will enable us to do that. It will improve the customer experience by providing HD voice calling.
“In addition, VoLTE allows users to access voice and data services at the same time over 4G, without compromising data connectivity speeds. The choice of Ericsson’s technology and services is an essential part of our program to increase our network performance and customer satisfaction.
“With our enhanced indoor 4G coverage and voice calls on the same network, our customers will feel the difference. The call audio quality will be high definition, and call connection times will be significantly shorter,” said Hanssen. “In other words, there will be virtually no time lag between the customer pressing the call button and the call being connected when they are using 4G.”
Last month, Vodafone said its 4G network would reach 95% of Australia’s metropolitan population by the end of 2014 by utilising its low-band 850MHz spectrum holding.
The upgrade will use Ericsson’s Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technologies and policy control and circuit-switched core. Ericsson will also provide integration services for voice and packet core that will support VHA’s business transformation and improved customer offering.
Ericsson’s IMS platform is the foundation for the introduction of VoLTE. Over the period of the five year agreement Ericsson and VHA says they are committed to fully virtualising the core network. Like Telstra, VHA will adopting Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) in the core network, which it says will provide greater network agility and flexibility and create cost efficiencies.
Hanssen said the deal with Ericsson is part of the multi-billion dollar investment VHA is making in improving its network and customer experience. “Vodafone is the first operator in Australia to commit to this technology in its core network, meaning we will have one of the most advanced networks in the world. It cements Vodafone’s reputation as one of the world leaders in mobile network technology.
Ericsson has supported the majority of the world’s first commercial VoLTE launches and is the market leader in EPC, with more than 150 commercial contracts in 70 countries and more than 115 commercial IMS contracts.