Vodafone Arrives At ‘Turning Point’ As It Reaches 5.3m UK 4G Users

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone CEO praises £19bn investment programme in global networks as recovery, and UK 4G growth, continues

Vodafone’s 4G network now covers 82 percent of the UK population and has 5.3 million users as the company claims its £19 billion ‘Project Spring’ investment programme is paying off across all its markets.

The Newbury-based operator had 4.7 million UK 4G customers in July, up from three million in May, while coverage has increased from 63 percent over the past six months.

UK revenues were down 0.1 percent during the first half of 2015 as gains in fixed line broadband following the launch of Vodafone Connect and the enterprise market were offset by falls in consumer mobile. However Vodafone is confident that the investments in its network and rising data demand put it in a good position going forward.

Vodafone 4G

Vodafone LeedsAcross all markets, service revenue was down 3.7 percent to £18.4 billion during the first half of 2015, with European service revenues dropping 6.2 percent to £12.1 billion. Losses amounted to £1.6 billion over the same period – however these can be explained by the cost of Project Spring.

Project Spring has seen more than 80,000 mobile sites modernised, and tens of thousands new ones deployed, with high capacity backhaul also added.

“We have reached an important turning point for the Group with a return to organic growth in service revenue and EBITDA in the first half of the financial year,” said Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao.

“Our customers are benefiting from the significant investments we are making in high speed mobile and fixed networks, as evidenced by the huge growth in demand for data and the increased loyalty to Vodafone services.

Project Spring

“We are achieving 4G leadership in Europe, organic revenue growth in fixed and enterprise and sustained commercial momentum in emerging markets, all of which is consistent with our long- term strategy and which is being accelerated through our Project Spring investments. We also remain keenly focused on increasing efficiency and improving margins. We expect progress to continue in the second half of the year.”

European 4G coverage now stands at 80 percent – up from 32 percent two years ago – and 88 percent of all data sessions are 3Mbps are faster. Other areas like unified communications and M2M have become key areas of interest for Vodafone, which says business contracts  now comprises 32.3 percent of its European revenues. The firm has 24 million M2M connections and says the ability to provide other types of service beyond voice and data present a significant opportunity.

In June, Vodafone confirmed it was in talks with cable giant Liberty Global about a possible exchange of assets but ruled out a full merger. This increased speculation that Vodafone might look to acquire Virgin Media to better compete with in an increasingly converged UK communications market. However these talks have now concluded with no deals agreed.

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