Vodafone: No network problems if we'd had iPhone exclusive

Vodafone believes its long-term experience with BlackBerry use has led it to better understand the impact of smartphones and build a more stable network, and claims that its infrastructure (unlike some others) would not have collapsed from being overloaded by unpredictable traffic generated by iPhones.

According to Mairead Cullen, regional head of network development for Vodafone, the company had extensive and long-term knowledge of handling data traffic from handsets, and "If we'd had (the exclusive deal for the iPhone in the UK) there wouldn't have been any data problems."

Cullen maintains that Vodafone is best placed to deal with the anticipated upsurge in smartphone-generated data traffic: "With data consumption there are a number of elements for a network to consider, such as carrying data loads. For instance, we've got 1.5 million unique users using Facebook each month. Secondly, it's managing the signalling associated with that data; smartphones 'chatter' a lot more than normal phones, where they regularly poll the network up to 10 times more than feature phones, and we understand and are experienced with the complexities of that model."

However, Cullen did admit that its network coverage in the UK remained incomplete with only 81% of the population being able to access 3G services.

With the company now actively promoting the 3G iPhone along with other smartphones - such as the Nokia N900, Sony Ericsson Vivaz and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, rival operators will be watching closely for any signs of stress in Vodafone's network.

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O2: the UK's largest operator, with the poorest 3G coverage

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