Vodafone IP core upgrade to bring voice to 4G

Also increases focus on M2M, enterprise

Vodafone CEO Iñaki Berroeta.

Vodafone CEO Iñaki Berroeta.

Vodafone has announced an overhaul of its core IP network to enable voice calls on the telco's 4G network.

CEO Iñaki Berroeta announced the new network in a keynote at a lunch hosted by the Trans Tasman Business Circle.

The core network, which will be designed by Ericsson under a five-year contract, is also expected to reduce costs and enable Vodafone to introduce other 4G services, according to the telco.

The overhaul is part of the number-three telco's planned $1 billion network spending this year.

Vodafone plans to trial voice over LTE (VoLTE) later this year with a formal launch planned for 2015, said the telco.

The technology increases the audio quality of voice calls and also shortens the amount of time to connect a call.

"The current 4G networks primarily focus on providing faster data services," said Vodafone CTO Benoit Hanssen.

"But no Australian network is offering voice calls on its 4G network, and our new core network will enable us to do that.

The news follows an announcement last month that Vodafone will refarm its 850MHz spectrum to enhance indoor 4G coverage in metropolitan areas.

"With our enhanced indoor 4G coverage and voice calls on the same network, our customers will feel the difference," said Hanssen.

Vodafone outlined a five-year network evolution program that will also include adoption of network function virtualization (NFV) in the core network to provide greater network flexibility and reduce costs.

Vodafone is the first telco in Australia to adopt this type of virtualization in the network, but its competitors will likely be soon to follow, according to Hakan Eriksson, head of Ericsson A/NZ.

"Will other operators also have done virtualization of their networks within five years? I'm quite sure of it. It's the next wave."

Ericsson last week announced that it would also support the deployment of NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) for Telstra.

Berroeta said Vodafone will increase its focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) and enterprise services.

M2M "is something we will be promoting more and more for businesses in Australia," the Vodafone CEO said.

He cited opportunities for car manufacturers, transportation operations, fleet management and logistics.

"Machine to machine is really a volume business," he said. "If you think about the amount of devices [and] equipment that today is mobile and growing, and the benefits that connectivity can bring to any of the processes of managing that business, [there] is just this incredible opportunity."

Telstra CEO David Thodey has also pointed to significant revenue opportunities brought by the increasing number of connected devices — a trend known as the Internet of Things — after Telstra announced its financial year results.

Berroeta said Vodafone will be selling more enterprise services than it has in the past.

"The enterprise business is changing a lot in the way that they are introducing communications services."

"I think the introduction of [bring your own device] BYOD is going to be a significant change in the market."

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags mobileVodafoneNetworkingTelconetworkenterprisetelecomM2MHD voicevoice over LTEIP core

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