Vodafone sets end date for 3G as Project Spring ends

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Vodafone is aiming to switch off its 3G networks in Europe by 2020, after it announced the completion of its three-year network investment project.

The £19 billion Project Spring initiative was launched in late 2013 to improve its network quality globally.

The operator has now extended its European LTE footprint by 55 percentage points to 87 percent of its customers, just shy of its original 90 percent target. It blamed rollout delays in Germany and the United Kingdom.

Group CEO Vittorio Colao told reporters it was held up in part by site acquisition in the UK, while in Germany Vodafone chose to prioritise fixed line.

Vodafone will spend an additional £2 billion in the UK during the next three years as it meets its original Project Spring targets, expands LTE and adds fresh network infrastructure.

It said 91 percent of its data sessions are at 3MBps and above, one percentage point above its 90 percent target. The operator has also reduced its dropped call rate from 0.9 percent to 0.5 percent.

Single RAN grew by 40 percentage points to 93 percent, short of a target of 97 percent. High capacity backhaul also increased by 25 percentage points to 90, again short of the 98 percent target.

In total, Vodafone added 43,000 new mobile sites and installed 115,000 single RAN base stations.

Looking ahead, Group CTO Johan Wibergh outlined its 2020 targets, which included a 3G switchoff across Europe.

He said the operator would have half of its network functions virtualised, supported by software defined networks. This would lead to end to end service provisioning slashed to less than a week.

Another target for Vodafone is equipping all 4G base stations with the ability to support NB-IoT, the cellular M2M network expected to launch next year.

Colao said: "We have now successfully concluded our Project Spring organic investment programme. This has transformed the quality of our technology, enhancing our customers' experience and enabling us to expand our Enterprise services."