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January 9, 2017updated 13 Feb 2017 12:57pm

What is Vodafone?

Vodafone is one of the world's largest telecoms operators.

By Ellie Burns

Headquartered in London, Vodafone is a British telecom company.

The UK-based telecoms operator provides mobile and broadband services. By number of customers, Vodafone is one of the largest telcos in the world, with over 400 million connections and customers across 26 countries.

Vodafone started life as a merger between Racal Strategic Radio and Millicom in 1982. Racal Strategic Radio was a subsidiary of Racal Electronics, the UK”s largest maker of military radio technology.

The Racal-Millicom brand underwent various name changes and then in 1991, Racal Telecom was demerged from Racal Electronics as the Vodafone Group.

The name Vodafone comes from voice data fone, with the latter a sensational spealling of ‘phone’. It was chosen by the company as it reflected the ‘provision of voice and data services over mobile phones.’


Incredibly, Vodafone has only had four Chief Execs in its long history – but who are they?

In the UK, Vodafone competes with EE, O2 and Three in providing mobile services. By number of subscribers Vodafone is the second biggest provider in this field. The company has also sold broadband services since 2015.

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It serves both consumer markets and businesses through the subsidiary Vodafone Global Enterprise. Established in 2007, it provides telecommunications and IT services to large corporations. Operating across 65 countries, Vodafone Global Enterprise  offers integrated communication solutions in cloud computing, unified communications and collaboration. Its services also provide mobile email, managed services, mobile payment, mobile broadband and M2M services.

The company has had only four Chief executives since its initial public offering in 1988 – something of an anomaly in the corporate world.

Sir Gerald Whent served from 1988 to 1996 and was responsible for the bid for a UK Cellular Network license. Sir Christopher Gent served from 1997 to 2003 and led the company’s transformation from a small UK operator to the global giant it is today, while Arun Sarin served from 2003 to 2008 and was the force driving the company into new markets in Asia and Africa. The current CEO is Vittorio Colao.

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