Vodafone 3G network weakest in Sydney

Customers in CBD and eastern suburbs report highest dropout rate in the country

User-reported mobile coverage fell short of expectations, according to the Vodafail report.

User-reported mobile coverage fell short of expectations, according to the Vodafail report.

Sydney’s central business district and eastern suburbs remain some of the weakest points in Vodafone’s 3G network for reception, with more than 2000 dropouts recorded in the past two months, according to a report to be sent to industry regulators this week.

The report, entitled Vodafone's situation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (PDF), found 319 of the users surveyed in the Sydney CBD and eastern suburban areas perceived a voice reception of between 22 and 37 per cent, some of the lowest in Australia.

Users in the CBD area also reported internet reception of just 19 per cent and broadband reception of 16 per cent.

The report also found users reported dropout rates much higher than the 0.7 per cent Vodafone alleged has remained consistent over the last six months.

“Customers repeatedly try to make calls only to have them disconnect or drop out after a few minutes,” the report reads. “The customers experiencing these problems are sometimes quite distressed as they are unable to contact their families in the event of an emergency or accident.

"Other customers have determined the financial impact of delayed voicemail and the inability to make calls to be detrimental to their business.”

The findings were formed from 16,000 contributions to a coverage-mapping facility provided on the Vodafail website by site creator and software engineering graduate, Adam Brimo, and will be sent to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in hopes of progressing perceived issues over network reliability of Vodafone’s 3G network.

Despite an apology issued by Vodafone chief executive, Nigel Dews, in December, increased frustration from the company’s customers, along with the formation of the Vodafail website, recently sparked a class action suit against the company.

The suit has, to date, garnered as many as 19,000 participants with the goal of seeking compensation for network issues and potentially a recent breach of customer privacy on Vodafone’s website.

Of the 12,000 individual complaints identified in the 30-page report, the vast majority stipulated users did not have phone or data reception in an area where coverage was expected.

Vodafone hopes to remedy the issue with continued upgrades to its network and an expanded 850MHz network throughout the year. The Sydney CBD is expected to be one of the areas to benefit from the plan, with three 850MHz base stations to be built in the area in 2011.

Brimo’s report to the regulators suggests greater transparency and communication from the telco to customers over network issues, pointing to recent outages on the Skype network and on National Australia Bank’s issues as examples of better crisis management.

However, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which supported Brimo’s actions and report, voiced concerns over whether any dealings with the regulators would yield actual results, as the telecommunications industry is largely self-regulated.

Brimo is yet to speak publicly about the report. Computerworld Australia contacted Vodafone for comment but did not receive a response at time of writing.

Having issues with your Vodafone connection? Let us know below.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags 3G network3gNetworkingVodafailVodafone

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