Need for speed ramps up
Mobile downloads are getting faster on all networks, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson.
PEAK speeds of 150 megabits per second. An extra 1.5GB for new customers. A technological advantage offering high speeds for more users.
Vodafone may be late to the 4G party, but the reputationally challenged company has brought serious talking points when it comes to high- speed mobile internet.
But analysts and competitors have questioned whether its faster mobile network will be enough to save the telco, battered by years of “Vodafail” feedback, and up against companies already planning mobile internet speeds beyond those currently on offer.
Vodafone officially launched its 4G network in Australia earlier this month, inviting existing customers with 4G- ready devices to trial it in parts of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Wollongong and the Gold Coast.
The newly speedy network will be available to new users from next month.
Vodafone 4G technology program manager Allen Didovich said the company’s network upgrade had cost “billions” and had been extensively tested with many 4G devices, even discovering a networking issue with one Nokia handset in the process.
Vodafone promised download speeds of up to 100mbps on its 4G network, allowing data- intensive activity such as high- definition video streaming, and claimed a technological advantage over major rivals Telstra and Optus: a “2 x 20MHz contiguous spectrum holding” in five capital cities that allows more people to use the network at once.
“It’s like lanes on a highway,” Didovich said.
“The more lanes on a highway, the faster the traffic moves. We have that same advantage with spectrum. Perhaps more importantly, when the network gets more traffic on it, we will provide the same speeds.”
Didovich said this technology had demonstrated a peak speed of 150mbps, something “we don’t believe has been done before” but the company had carefully chosen not to advertise its 4G network as the fastest in Australia to avoid breaking trust with its remaining customers.
Vodafone planned to introduce “well over 1000” 4G base stations by the end of the year, network product management head Robert Glennon said.
But the company will be competing with early 4G adopter Telstra, which planned to install 2000 4G base stations by the end of June.
Telstra network and access technologies executive director Mike Wright said the company now boasted the widest 4G coverage, available to 66 per cent of the population, including 100 regional centres.
Wright said Telstra was already planning the next evolution of 4G technology. That will include the use of spectrum freed up by the end of analogue TV broadcasts and the introduction of the next step up in 4G technology.
“Within 12 to 18 months, we’ll start looking at upgrading to LTE- A [ Long- Term Evolution Advanced] that will offer greater speeds again,” he said.
Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi estimated almost 6 per cent of Australia’s 30.6 million mobile connections were 4G by the end of last year, but that figure will more than double to 20 per cent this year.
“We think by 2017 you’ll see the same kinds of 4G penetration as you do for 3G devices now,” he said. “Upgrading to 4G will just be a natural progression.”
Fadaghi said Vodafone’s launch and continued 4G expansion was “critical” for the telco to rebuild its reputation, however, and could no longer rely on price cuts.
“They need to stem the decline in customers,” he said.
“In the past they’ve had a strategy around price and undercutting, but they now understand that’s not the best strategy for them. It’s a race to the bottom.”