Vodafone Fiji has provided an update on its $207m capital investment in its network infrastructure. And this very good news for all of Fiji.
4G plus coverage will be expanded to almost all of Fiji covering estimated 96% of the population from the current 60%. Apart of the capacity upgrade to meet the huge demand for high speed mobile broadband coverage in the Suva-Nausori-Lami Corridor, and the Western Division, 4G plus coverage will be extended to cover almost all of Vanualevu, Tavueni, Rabi and the Laucala Island.
Vodafone Fiji’s Regional CEO, Pradeep Lal also shared, how data usage on its network has increased 400% over the last 2 years from 10 Petabyte to 400 Petabyte. (1 Petabyte = 1 x105 bytes). “Globally, for network technology providers like us, the demand for data is driven largely by Internet of Things (IoT) and the need for access to data at any time anywhere,” he said. It has therefore become a business imperative for network technology providers like Vodafone to provide ubiquitous access to data 24/7. Every electronic gadget that now gets produced in the world, comes with the option to be connected to the internet either through a SIM card or WIFI,” he said.
Furthermore, there is significant shift in user behavior for data. From just reading and browsing the internet for information, today it is about watching videos. This is a result of high penetration (78%) of smart phones in Fiji compared to global benchmark of 75%. Viewing videos online consume far more data and network bandwidth compared to traditional internet. “This shift in user behavior has pushed data usage through the roof”, Lal said.
“As a business, Vodafone has recognized this trend, and accordingly committed substantial budget to ensure there is sufficient capacity and headroom to cater for the anticipated demand for data growth in future”, said Lal.
Here in Fiji: •Vodafone Fiji has become the primary internet provider for Fiji and has over 1 million active connections on the network as customers have multiple data and voice connections.
•The Smartphone Penetration stands at 78% in the Fiji market and this is above the global benchmark of 75%.
•Data growth has been phenomenal and in the last 2 year data usage has grown by 400%.
•The total data traffic that went through the Vodafone network 2 years ago was 10 Petabyte (PB). When we compare this to the data usage on the Vodafone network currently, it has increased to 40 Petabyte (PB) and is forecasted to grow exponentially.
•Over ½ Million Fijians are now on social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) and communicating across Fiji and abroad through new mediums like Viber, What’s App & Messenger.
•Smartphone penetration is expected to reach 80% in 2019 due to the availability of competitively priced smartphones in the market.
The CEO provided a further breakdown of what the $207M capital investment meant on the ground and how this will affect its customers. Total number of base stations will increase from the current 390 to more than 600 base stations around the country.
Almost all existing and new base stations will be providing 4G+ coverage. This will make Vodafone by far the largest 4G+ mobile network in Fiji covering 96% of the Fijian population.
Significant progress has been made on the upgrade since the announcement in August last year. •All base station Hardware, Tower, Power systems & Antennas have arrived in country and installation is rapidly progressing across the country.
•Multiple contractors and vendors have been engaged to fast-track installations and commissioning of the cell base stations
•Work is also rapidly progressing at Vodafone’s 2 main data centres (Suva & Lautoka) to ensure that all core network components are upgraded including IP Core and Billing Systems
•The billing system is being upgraded to the latest billing system for mobile billing or greater performance and functionality. All these works are happening in parallel.
Phased Rollout Program:
◦Firstly, 100 existing 3G base stations will be converted to 4G+ & Pre 5G base stations ◦40% of the 3G base stations have already been upgraded to 4G+/Pre 5G and customers are already enjoying improved speeds and coverage in these areas.
◦The entire 100 site upgrade will be completed by end of this month – March 2019
◦Secondly, construction of 23 New Highway Base stations has started and this will allow for seamless coverage on the Queens and Kings highways for customers. This will provide further opportunities for eco and adventure tourism as tourists will be able to share and load pictures and videos of their experiences in real time. Work on this front is progressing well and should be completed by June 2019
◦Additionally, work has also started on 144 completely new 4G+/Pre 5G base stations for expanded capacity and coverage across Fiji ◦ 50 4G+ / Pre 5G are currently under construction and 20% of the total new base stations should be commissioned by March end.
◦The remaining new 4G+/Pre 5G base stations should go live progressively.
•A significant portion ($60M) of the total investment is geared towards providing high speed internet services in rural and remote areas including islands.
•Fijians in rural areas like Muaniweni, Naiyala, Moto & in islands like Kadavu, Yanuca, Beqa & Levuka, Dawasamu, Lomaivuna, Visama, Viria, Balevuto, Varavu, and Nausori Highlands will also have access to high speed internet services as we work further towards bridging the digital divide.
Vanualevu – Tavueni, Rabi and Laucala Island •Completion of the Savusavu Submarine Fibre Project has brought in reliable high speed internet connectivity to Vanualevu.
•Whilst the landing station is in Savuasavu, Vodafone is setting up a high capacity transmission link between Savusavu to Labasa to bring high speed internet services to Labasa and the rest of Vanualevu. This is expected to be completed by end of April this year.
•40 new 4G+ base stations will be commissioned in Vanualevu for increased data coverage to rural and remote areas including islands in the Northern Division.
•Also, high speed internet services will be available in islands like Taveuni, Rabi & Laucala by end of June.
•Also a major expansion on 4G+ network coverage is currently happening in the Seaqaqa to Nabouwalu corridor and people in areas like Dreketi and Nabouwalu and greater Bua and Nasawaqa areas will have access to 4G+ internet services.
Pre-5G Network •For the First time in Fiji, we will have Pre-5G services to over 50% of the Fijian population after the completion of the network upgrade.
•As a mobile network provider, we will also be Future Ready for introduction of 5G services
Finally the benefits to customers after the completion of this network upgrade will mean: •Customers will get high speed mobile broadband, access to high speed broadband and new applications aimed at supporting digital transformation.
•We are preparing to offer high speed mobile connectivity as the volume of data exchanged particularly from services like ultra-HD video streaming. The content and services of the future will require even more bandwidth and high speed