Light Reading

Vodafone Covers Its Backhaul

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

The financial health of Southern Europe might be giving Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) CEO Vittorio Colao some sleepness nights at the moment, but he isn't at all worried about backhaul.

Struggling markets such as Spain and Italy are weighing down Vodafone's financials, as was shown Tuesday when the operator unveiled its numbers for the first half of its fiscal year. (See Euronews: Vodafone Stung in Southern Europe and Vodafone Posts H1 Loss of £1.88B.)

But when it comes to his networks, Colao is confident there's enough capacity to handle the rising levels of data traffic, particularly in Vodafone's backhaul networks.

Speaking at the operator's earnings presentation in London Tuesday, Colao highlighted how much backhaul capacity Vodafone has built into its network during the past year. Apparently, he is often asked, "What about the backhaul, Vittorio?"

The answer, it seems, is that at the close of the six-month period ending Sept. 30, Vodafone had backhaul capacity of 1 Gbit/s or higher across 47 percent of its European network footprint. That's up from 29 percent of its European network at the same time last year.

Is that enough capacity per base station site? Colao thinks so. He tasked CTO Steve Pusey to come up with a theoretical maximum throughput that a base station site could achieve. This theoretical base station site would be running LTE at 2600MHz, LTE at 800MHz, 3G at 2100MHz and 3G at 800MHz on three sectors, and if each technology hit peak speeds the total throughput would, by Vodafone's calculation, reach 930Mbit/s -- just under the 1Gbit/s backhaul capacity.

That's hypothetical, though; the demands placed on actual base stations don't quite match those levels, giving Vodafone some room to grow into that network capacity (at least for now). Currently, the operator's smartphone customers account for just 30 percent of its total European subscriber base, although nearly 50 percent of its contract customers in Europe have the data-hungry devices.

Vodafone also provided some other updates on its European networks and data usage during the half-year results presentation:

  • The average utilization of its 3G networks in Europe was 35 percent at the end of this financial period. Also, 6 percent of its 3G base station sites reached 90 percent or higher peak use.

  • Fifty-one percent of its base station sites in Europe use a second frequency carrier, and 7 percent of sites use a third carrier for additional radio capacity.

  • Data usage per customer among iPhone subscribers was up 30 percent compared with the same period last year, while Android device data usage increased 25 percent. Tablet usage in general was up 60 percent.

  • In Germany, Vodafone has 260,000 LTE customers and 3,700 LTE base stations live.

  • In Europe, 44 percent of Vodafone's base station sites have been upgraded to SingleRAN -- that is, supporting multiple technologies (2G GSM, 3G WCDMA and 4G LTE) in one base station -- up from just 13 percent in the same period last year.

  • Globally, 50 percent of Vodafone's base station sites are shared with other operators.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:42 PM
re: Vodafone Covers Its Backhaul

So Vodafone has about half of their sites on fibre. It would be interesting to see transport type breakdown (i.e. microwave vs. fibre) for urban vs. suburban sites and/or for hub vs. end-sites, although that probably varies by region.

Dimensioning exercise mentioned in the article is probably mentioned to impress analysts. Dimensioning network to support peak speeds from all sectors across all technologies would be very costly (and completely unnecessary).



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