Vodafone not expecting to repeat O2 iPhone problems

Mobile operator Vodafone claims it is confident of avoiding the iPhone network and supply issues tha


Speaking to CBR at an event marking Vodafone's arrival as an iPhone seller in London this morning, enterprise director Peter Kelly said that the firm had liaised with both Apple and other partners prior to the launch to ensure the supply chain was prepared.

"We had 50,000 pre-orders ready and shipped them on the first day of sales and all were activated within 24 hours," he said. "The launch was a long time coming so a lot of planning went into it - we spoke to Apple about where we expected demand to be greatest. There have been no issues so far but we'll monitor the sales forecast closely."

The impressive first day sales - by way of contrast Google's Nexus One phone shipped 20,000 during its first week on sale - were boosted by customers who had delayed upgrading until the iPhone was available. While Kelly said that Vodafone "won't sell that many every day", the firm is confident of hitting sales targets for the iPhone.

O2, who was previously the only UK iPhone provider, has regularly seen its network fail due to the huge amount of data used by bandwidth-hogging iPhone users. However, Kelly is confident that Vodafone has the infrastructure in place to cope with the additional traffic.

"If people are going to deploy smart devices, and specifically the iPhone, it's really important that you have a network you can trust, a network that is reliable. We continue to rollout and strengthen our network - more than one thousand new sites were rolled out in the UK last year, and we continue to invest tens and hundreds of millions of pounds in our network this year," he said.

To help customers further improve their mobile signal, Vodafone has also announced it is rebranding its femtocell offering. Now called Sure Signal, it is said to deliver much better indoor 3G coverage and signal. It has also revamped the pricing model in an attempt to attract more small business and consumer customers.

Kelly also rejected the idea that the iPhone is not yet ready for wide-spread business use, primarily due to concerns over battery life and the fact that iPhones can only run one application at a time.

"I think you need to look at the user profile of what an enterprise user does compared to a consumer," he told CBR. "Consumers are very bandwidth-hungry, they do lots of downloading of YouTube content for example. While enterprise customers use more mission-critical information, a lot of it isn't necessarily massive in bandwidth requirements. Consumers can be using two or three times the monthly bandwidth of an enterprise user. We're confident that our network is capable of handling the data."

Kelly said that Vodafone has also been working on its support for businesses looking to make the switch to the iPhone. "We've been deploying smartphones in enterprises for years. We have over 1,000 business advisers who have been trained on the iPhone and for larger deployments we offer professional support services," he told CBR.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.