Vodafone took a further step forward in its LTE strategy by announcing it has reached 500,000 LTE subscribers in the UK, and is also extending LTE roaming services to more of its markets across the globe under its £7 billion (€8.5 billion) Project Spring investment programme.
The UK-based operator said it now has 500,000 customers on its Red 4G plans in the UK "just six months after they went on sale", which the company clearly attributes to its strategy of offering inclusive music or sports content.
That figure compares to the 2 million LTE users announced in January by rival operator EE. O2 UK said it does not break out actual LTE users as yet but confirmed in January it has around 1 million customers who are enabled for LTE including those with an LTE-compatible device. 3 UK only launched its LTE services in December 2013.
Vodafone also said it started to expand its LTE coverage to a further 115 towns and districts in the UK over the past few months and its LTE network now covers 36 per cent of the UK population. Investment in LTE is part of the more than £900 million that Vodafone is spending on its network across the country this year. That investment comes on top of the £802 million the operator spent on new spectrum frequencies in last year's auction.
The operator noted that it has seen a surge in data usage in connection with the LTE take-up. "In fact, 4G customers are typically using twice as much data as our 3G customers," the company said on its blog. "In December last year, for example, 300 terabytes of data went through our network."
LTE is an important pillar of Vodafone's future growth strategy. In its recent fiscal third-quarter results, the company said it had around 2 million LTE customers across Europe, and LTE services are now available in 13 countries. Some 9.8 million people have subscribed to the higher-value Vodafone Red contracts that include data, call minutes and SMS as well as value-added services such as cloud storage, data-sharing plans and music or TV content. Vodafone added that it is well on target to achieve 11 million-12 million Vodafone Red customers by March 2014.
Roaming will be an important aspect of LTE growth, and Vodafone said it will extend LTE roaming to 18 countries worldwide from summer 2014, at no extra cost from existing 3G roaming plans. Vodafone already offers LTE roaming on its own networks in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Between now and summer 2014, the company will launch LTE roaming in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK.
"Under its Project Spring £7 billion investment programme, Vodafone has fast-tracked its 4G roaming plans to ensure that key holiday destinations are covered in time for the summer break," the company said in a statement. "It will also offer 4G roaming to customers of other operators under its existing reciprocal roaming agreements."
Vodafone Australia also announced separately that it will offer new roaming plans to Vodafone Red users for an additional flat fee of A$5 (€3.2) per day. The plans cover the UK, U.S., New Zealand and other markets in Europe and Asia, taking the total number of countries covered to 46.
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