UPDATE: 2degrees has now revealed its own DC HSPA+ roll-out.
By one definition of 4G – any mobile data connection faster than 21 megabits per second – Vodafone NZ is already there, CEO Russell Stanners told NBR ONLINE.
Some would only call a 4G connection 4G if it is underpinned by Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
But Mr Stanners noted all major carriers in the US claimed to be 4G at a time when only one (Verizon) actually had LTE.
Vodafone NZ is not calling its network 4G but, well, it could, he says.
On this note, he tells NBR that Vodafone plans to extend the fastest version of its current 3G network (Dual Carrier HSPA+) from 12% coverage of the Auckland and Wellington CBDs today. By December this year 32% of its network will use technology 42Mbit/s technology, increasing to 52% by March 2013. That means all of Auckland, parts of Wellington and parts of Christchurch will be covered by December this year, and all of Wellington by March. RBI sites will also employ this technology as sites are upgraded and new sites are built.
Telecom and 2degrees don’t support DC HSPA+, leaving their 3G networks at half the theoretical maximum speed.
That’s not such a big issue for them today, because there are only two devices that support DC HSPA+: Vodafone’s top-end data stick, and the new iPad (and most people who buy an iPad plump for the wi-fi only version).
Mr Stanners told NBR he hoped the number of DC-capable devices would expand. It would be logical for Apple to extend 42Mbit/s Dual Carrier support from the new iPad to the new iPhone (widely presumed to be the subject of an Apple event scheduled for September 12).
But we’ll just have to wait and see, he says, with an expression indicating he already had a pretty good idea.
So what of LTE?
Mr Stanners says his company will be boots-and-all involved in the 700MHz spectrum auction the government has scheduled for later this year. But if it wins spectrum, it will prioritise rural areas.
Recommitted to Nokia-Siemens
Vodafone has recommitted to Nokia-Siemens as its network partner, Mr Stanners says.
Nokia-Siemens recently said it would layoff a quarter of its staff worldwide as it refocused on mobile broadband.
Across the Tasman, relations have been rocky, with Nokia Siemens talking Vodafone Australia to court over a performance bonus withdrawn by Vodafone following customer complaints.
Both Dual Carrier HSPA+ and LTE offer head-spinning speed. Nokia-Siemens' five-year roadmap has them hitting speeds of 336Mbit/s and 1Gibit/s (1000Mbit/s) respectively.
By comparison, fibre laid under the Ultrafast Broadband rollout can hit up to 100Mbit/s.
Vodafone is sensible enough to caution those are theoretical maxium speeds.
Mr Stanners notes each is total bandwidth for a cellsite – so Joe Smartphone user will only only hit 1Gbit/s on this 2017 download if he's the only person using the nearest tower.
End of 2G handsets...
Mr Stanners said Vodafone will stop selling 2G devices this week. With 3G smartphones now selling for as little as $100, there was no point keeping lower-end devices in stock.
...but not 2G network
That doesn’t mean the end of Vodafone’s 2.5G/GPRSnetwork. Mr Stanners says it will be kept on well into the next decade for backup (easily swamped backup, NBR would say).
And, more so, for machine-to-machine connections, which are expected to rise as more smart meters and other SIM-card packing widgets are installed in homes, cars and various appliances.
Phone companies might be making only fractionally more revenue from mobile data, thanks to a reasonably robust price war, but usage has definitely gone through the roof.
Vodafone showed NBR figures showing its mobile traffic has increased 125% year-on-year.
Since 2008 (when the first iPhone was released) usage has jumped from 5 terabytes (5000GB) a month to 220 terabytes a month.
End to domestic bill shock; international help still on the way
Vodafone's Data Angel initiative has stopped domestic bill shock, Mr Stanners says.
Under the blanket scheme, a customer is sent a warning when they near their limit, then can't go over their limit until they make a choice between buying an extra data pack, or going onto a casual rate.
Data Angel has reduced the number of people who use mobile data at a casual rate by 80%, according to Vodafone figures.
Mr Stanners says the scheme would be extended to international roaming shortly.
Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees face possible regulation of transtasman roaming charges following a joint Australia-NZ government investigation which found charges high, and customers confused.