Vodafone's build plan promises 77,000 new 4G sites by 2016

Vodafone has said today that by March 2016 it'll provide access to 89,000 4G sites, adding 77,000 to its current 12,000. The big network growth push comes as part of the telecom company's Project Spring, a £7bn investment funded by the proceeds of its $130bn (£81.7bn) Verizon Wireless sale.

Vodafone announced this morning in its half yearly report that it saw a bigger-than-expected sales decline of 4.9 per cent. The group has felt the pinch in Europe, saying that trading is "very tough at present". It has upped investment in Project Spring from the initially-proposed £6bn to £7bn by March 2016 (March 2017 previously), saying that the transition to 4G, along with the economic prospects in Europe, "makes this the right time for Vodafone to pursue further development and differentiation".

In August, Vodafone rolled 4G out to London, and will launch it in 12 other cities by the end of the financial year. However, last week it was criticised by regulator Ofcom for its failure to meet 3G coverage obligations (competitors EE, Three and O2 all satisfied requirements), with some remote areas of the UK excluded.

But Vodafone has stressed that it is focused on building a new European network, and is planning £15bn of network capital expenditure to its March 2016 target, along with £5.5bn incremental network investment over two years. The 77,000 new 4G sites will be complemented by growth in 4G outdoor coverage, along with thousands of new 2G and 3G sites.