Vodafone Hutchison Australia has given the green light to a new roaming strategy that will see 3 subscribers roam onto Vodafone’s 3G network for the first time.
It comes as the latest move in a three-year merger for the mobile carriers. VHA stopped selling mobile services under the 3 brand last year and has actively pushed to renew contracts under the Vodafone brand before the shut-down of the Hutchison-operated 3GIS network in August.
Those customers still on the 3 network have been able to access Vodafone’s GSM network while roaming for some time but had previously roamed on to Telstra for 3G access under existing arrangements.
A Vodafone spokesman confirmed a trial of the new strategy in Western Australia during February had proven successful and would now be rolled out across all Australian 3 users over the next three months.
Phones and devices used by 3 subscribers would still roam onto Telstra Next G and 2G networks as a “final default setting” in areas without Vodafone or 3 coverage.
The spokesman would not confirm how many customers remained on the 3 network but said a “high number of customers” have switched contracts to Vodafone.
VHA and Telstra will stop sharing Australia’s first 3G network by August 31 this year, concluding a sharing agreement in place for the past eight years.
Though it is likely to affect 3 customers more than Telstra, the latter company has also ramped up its efforts to transition customers away from the 3GIS network.
Letters sent to customers known to use the affected devices have pushed them to switch over to a Next G-compatible device operating over the 850 MHz spectrum. Key 3G services like Mobile FOXTEL would no longer operate over the 2100 MHz-based 3GIS network from August.
In some cases, businesses that purchased mobile fleets with other telcos and then transitioned those devices to Telstra will likely suffer a drop in 3G coverage.
Impending 3GIS shutdown
The mobile stations left behind by the conclusion of the agreements are expected to be split evenly between VHA and Telstra, a move slowly negotiated over the past two years and only finalised late last year.
Both are now set to get about half of the 2700 base stations - or 1350 each - that will then be merged into their respective 3G networks.
Telstra plans to boost its Next G coverage with 2100 MHz spectrum while Vodafone will add to its 3G coverage without acquiring/building new sites.
A Vodafone spokesman confirmed the telco had already begun installing its own 850 MHz infrastructure on its share of the mobile base stations as part of its $500 million rip-and-replace network upgrade.