When Nick Jeffery became Vodafone UK CEO back in September 2016, he had a lot on his plate.
Jeffery first joined the company in 2004, spending the best part of a decade as CEO of the Group’s Enterprise division during which he handled the £1 billion acquisition and integration of Cable & Wireless.
When the call came for him to take the top job, Vodafone was struggling with a challenging regulatory environment and fierce competition. Margins were being squeezed and the operator’s reputation was taking a battering after a billing debacle that saw it fined £4.6 million.
A great 12 months
It wasn’t quite desperate times for one of the original pioneers of mobile communications, but there was work to be done if the Newbury-based operator was to take advantage of the new era of mobility.
In 1985, its network carried the first ever mobile phone call made in the UK. Seven years later it enabled the first SMS text message sent anywhere. With 5G, IoT and digitisation on the horizon, it sensed the opportunity to innovate again.
A £4 billion network investment programme over four years has seen the convergence of Vodafone’s core mobile and fixed networks into a single infrastructure – Increasing capacity, boosting resiliency, and lowering latency and the overhaul of internal systems to better serve customers.
Site upgrades have resulted in the expansion and enhancement of its mobile service and enabled the launch of 5G, while there has been a significant expansion of Vodafone’s IoT network. The operator wants to meet the future demands of consumers and businesses whatever they might be.
The effort has been an overwhelming success and we are delighted to announce that Jeffery has topped the Mobile Industry Awards Power 50 – a list of the most influential people in the sector.
(Image credit: Vodafone)Returning to Vodafone’s roots
“Vodafone UK definitely has its mojo back!” he tells TechRadar Pro, referring to a similar declaration two years ago.
Jeffery says being named Person of the Year is the result of a team effort and vindication of the company’s strategy since he took the reins.
“[This award] is a reflection on what Vodafone as a whole has achieved over the past year. We really have the most incredible leadership dedicated to making us a great success and we’ve been pulling together to achieve a very clear objective over the past four years. [Winning this award] is a combination of all those efforts.
“We have a fantastic history of being an innovator and …we have become on the of the great multinationals to come out of the UK in the past 30 years.
“We’ve returned to our roots as an innovator and our success is based on being a company that really cares about customers and one that was prepared to go the extra mile with things like 5G and unlimited propositions.
“We have a much more modern, edgier brand and we’re getting the company back to being a really great, leading British company.”
While Jeffery admits there is some more work to be done in terms of customer satisfaction (Vodafone is still the UK’s joint-most complained about mobile operator according to Ofcom), there have been definite improvements from the dark days of early 2016. Although customer satisfaction is below the industry average of 93 per cent, nine in ten of the operator’s customers are happy with their service.
Vodafone’s 5G network launch has been a success – especially in London where some independent testers have declared it to be the best of any operator. This is a huge boost for the company which has a strong legacy in the business market.
However, it’s not just about major towns and cities. All four mobile operators have signed up to the £1 billion Shared Rural Network (SRN), which provides a framework for operators to share infrastructure in hard to reach locations.
The changing role of connectivity
Jeffery says the UK mobile industry is “fantastically competitive” and every operator wants to have the best network. However, he adds that the Coronavirus pandemic has elevated the role of connectivity within society.
Millions of people are now reliant on their mobile connection to work, play and communicate and he feels that Vodafone’s outlook has changed. Like its competitors, the company took steps to ensure its network and support services were resilient enough to handle additional demand and that no one was deprived of the services they required during lockdown.
“The ability of Vodafone UK to adapt to lockdown was nothing short of spectacular … it was a testament to the operational quality of the team we’ve got right across the company,” he says. “Covid-19 has forced us to ask ourselves about our role in society as well as serving customers. That’s why we offered free unlimited data to NHS workers and vulnerable people. We want to play our role in meeting the needs of wider society. Not just our customers.”
After a successful 12 months it is tempting to ponder what the next year has in store for Vodafone as it continues its 5G rollout. There is the constant spectre of Brexit, a spectrum auction (one which Vodafone wanted to be replaced with an allocation process), and the uncertainty of caused by the ongoing pandemic. Predictions are hard at the best of times, but Jeffery is confident Vodafone will make progress.
“We have very well-developed plans,” he says. “In networks we will continue to provide great coverage, great speeds, and great service. We’ll keep improving on customer service and care and we will innovate in digital as we have done over the last year or two.
“[But] most of all we will keep an eye on disrupting the UK market in an intelligent way that’s great for customers and great for the company.”
To find out more about these high calibre executives, and the rest of the Power 50 list, click here
(Image credit: Future)Previous winners of the Power 50 Person of the Year: 2019: Marc Allera, CEO, EE and BT Consumer2018: Marc Allera, CEO, EE and BT Consumer2017: David Dyson, CEO Three UK2016: Sebastian James, Group CEO, Dixons Carphone2015: Sebastian James, Group CEO, Dixons Carphone2014: Andrew Harrison, CEO, Carphone Warehouse2013: Olaf Swantee, CEO, EE2012: Simon Stanford, VP of UK & Ireland telecommunications and networks division, Samsung UK2011: Guy Laurence, CEO, Vodafone UK2010: Tom Alexander, CEO, Everything Everywhere2009: Andrew Harrison, CEO, Carphone Warehouse2008: Kevin Russell, CEO, Three UK
(Image credit: Future)
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