Need for speed ramps up

Mo­bile down­loads are get­ting faster on all net­works, writes Jennifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son.

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH -

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.”

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