Vodafone UK Jeroen Hoencamp knows all there is to know about the network and 4G, which is why we've been grilling him about the future of 'Ultrafast'...
We’ve recently grabbed some time with the busiest man at Vodafone HQ, UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp, to talk all things mobile. From our chat we’ve already gleaned Jeroen’s thoughts on the importance of bringing signal to not-spots, as well as the misconceptions around mobile signal. But now it’s time to look ahead.
With our Ultrafast 4G Network expanding across the country, we thought it only right to ask Jeroen what his thoughts are on this new generation of mobile tech, and where it’ll take us next…
4G for a reason
“For us it’s about having the strongest network,” Jeroen says of 4G. “One of the things that makes us different from others is that we have our ‘low band spectrum’. What that means is that our 4G is on a lower frequency, which travels further and deeper indoors. Forget all the technicalities, though: all it means is that we can offer great indoor coverage, and that’s important because the bulk of mobile activity actually takes place indoors – whether people are at work and at home.
“Wherever we build 4G, we’ve proved that we can deliver great unbeatable 4G speeds and coverage, but it’s not a race to have the highest speeds because when it comes to mobile, speed only gets you so far.”
Jeroen explains that you need to have something extra to make that speed worth having:
“We could build a network just to achieve massive speeds,” he says, “but the reality is that you don’t currently need anything beyond 20Mbps on a mobile device. Even for streaming video you only need a couple of megabits per second, so we think less about absolute speed and more about using that bandwidth to enable more customers to enjoy great content on the move, even in the busiest places and at the busiest times.”
That thinking, Jeroen goes on to explain, is the main reason for our 4G entertainment packs, which give you the choice of NOW TV Entertainment, Sky Sports Mobile TV or Spotify Premium as part of your plan:
“Our 4G entertainment packs are massively successful for the simple reason that customers don’t buy 4G for the latest technology – they switch to Vodafone 4G because there’s particular content they want to access.
“We had to ask: ‘What is it you do or want to do on your device?’ And when we showed people Sky Sports or Spotify, for instance, they loved it. 4G is the enabler: content is the real driver of what people do and care about. Customers shouldn’t worry or care about the latest back end technology – they care about the newest handsets and what they can do on them.”
To that end, Jeroen is a strong believer in that old adage that if something is doing its job well, you’ll hardly notice that it’s there at all:
“Many customers don’t care what 4G is. All customers want is consistency, so that wherever they go they have strong signal…”
“Many customers don’t know what 4G is,” he says. “Many customers don’t care what 4G is. All customers want is consistency, so that wherever they go they have strong signal, so that they can do what they want wherever they are. And you want to know that it’s really a step up from what you’ve seen before. So if you show people 4G as part of a big bundle with unlimited calls and texts, lots of data and content from Sky Sports, Spotify or Now TV Entertainment, then that’s the way to do it.
“People tend to take technology for granted, so we need to make it seamless and easy for people to use, and worry free, so that they can forget about it.”
4G and beyond…
If that approach sounds good, you’ll be pleased to know that our 4G rollout is well underway, with around 50% of the UK population already covered. But, as Jeroen explains, what sets us apart is the way in which we’re switching 4G on in each city, town and district:
“It’s not about who’s got the most coverage,” he says. “It’s more about having the strongest signal. We’d love to expand the network faster, but it’s about doing it right first time; I’d rather do it at the pace we’re doing and get it right, than try to go faster and build a thin and flimsy network. You can have a few sites here and there, but that would give you really patchy signal. We only turn 4G on when we have built or updated enough sites.”
“So instead of just having 4G in the centre of a town and saying that the whole town has 4G, we don’t say it’s there until it’s there. It’s about us being able to prove that people are happy with it.”
So where do we go from here? How long will 4G last? For the answer to those forward-thinking questions, Jeroen first looks to the past:
“I remember when we launched GPRS, which was essentially ‘2G and a bit,’” he says. “With a laptop and a special card you could go to the web and, after 30 seconds, an internet page would appear. It was amazing, but if anything takes more than a second to load these days, people get impatient. What I mean by that is: right now I’m hugely impressed with the technology, but as we all know, whatever is commercially available in the market at any given moment is probably already outdated in some circles.
“That said, we believe our 4G network is really futureproof. It’s here to stay for a long time, but what we offer will always continue to improve. We’ll add more content partners, and there will be new technologies overlaid which will make the network even better, and even faster. It’ll never stop,” he says in closing. “And we’ll continue to make things seamless.”