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iPhone 5 fastest on Vodafone, says independent tester (working on Vodafone time)

UPDATE:  A 2degrees spokesowman told NBR: "The results released by Vodafone today may be outdated given 2degrees has quadrupled its dual carrier coverage in the Auckland CBD in recent weeks." (Epitiro's testing was carried out in Auckland Oct 3 & 4; Wellington Oct 9 and 10).

The question though, is quadrupled from what to what? NBR awaits coverage maps.

"The results are also inconsistent with 2degrees own measurements which have recently shown 2degrees coverage to be equal or better than other networks in the main centres," the spokeswoman added.

A Telecom spokeswoman offered the general comment, "We receive frequent positive feedback about our 3G network's ‘real world’ strength and consistency.

"Telecom is committed to building on the excellent customer experience we offer now through the testing and roll out of dual carrier HSPA+ and trials of 4G LTE technology before Christmas. We expect to have rolled out DC HSPA+ technology  to more than 30% of our network by Christmas." (The 4G/LTE trial is a positive, but has to be seen in the context of Telecom's statement to investors that is no capital expenditure slated for 4G in its 2013 financial year, bar the trial.)

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Vodafone is the fastest network for the iPhone 5 in central Auckland and central Wellington, Epitiro says.

Epitiro is one of two independent testing companies used for Commerce Commission broadband peformance reports, but in this instance carried out benchmarks commissioned by Vodafone.

The testing found Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees all clocking very good mobile data download and upload times with the new iPhone. If you're not technical, just appreciate that each has achieved average speeds faster than most people's landline broadband connections (now if only mobile data was as cheap as DSL).

But, overall, Vodafone had the edge (see screen shots right or the full report here).

I've asked Telecom and 2degrees for comment. As I type, they have not got back to me – although I'm sure they will. Mobile testing is something of a dark art. Results depend on time of day, proximity to any given carrier's nearest cell site, traffic load and other factors. Epitiro seeks to overcome these variables by carrying out many simultaneous tests (more than 9500 in this instance) at multiple locations.

RAW DATA: Epitiro's report (PDF)

One fact is indisputable: the iPhone 5 is the only smartphone on the NZ market that supports dual carrier (DC) HSPA+ (Vodafone also has a data stick that supports DC; the cellular version of the latest iPad supports it too).

Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees all have HSPA+ 3G mobile networks.

Dual carrier turbocharges a HSPA+ mobile network, allowing for 4G-level data download speeds of up to 42Mbit/s (at theoretical maxium. That is, some kind of Quiet Earth scenario where you are the only person in the city using your cellphone, and you're hugging the nearest tower; sensibly, all three telcos say to expect speed to top-out around half that level. My rule of thumb is divide by two for the actual likely top speed, and by four for the actual average speed).

Vodafone was first off the mark, rolling out DC around the Auckland and Wellington CBDs, and placing coverage maps on its website (see its latest map, dated October 19, here)

2degrees and Telecom followed soon after with their own DC announcements. Both now have rollouts under way in Auckland, Wellington and in 2degrees' case Christchurch, too – but have yet to provide any coverage maps.

It's good to see all three carriers giving their network a speed boost. By Epitiro's reckoning, Vodafone has the edge at this point.

On a personal note, I've used my iPhone 5 with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees around central. So far, as it happens, I've clocked my fastest download time with 2degrees (14.67Mbit/s) with 2degrees. Epitiro has carried out far more testing in more areas. But where I work, 2degrees does usually have the edge. I see to be lucky enough to be in one of the areas its already upgraded.

Maybe that's simply because fewer 2degrees subscribers own an iPhone 5. But hey, that works for me.

Then again, I also know that if I walk up the street and stand in the right spot, at the right time, I'll get a few spurts into the mid-20s on Vodafone (whose DC-capable Vodem has delivered me my fastest ever data speeds).

Bottom line: Vodafone has definitely made a strong comeback. The network sometimes known as XT no longer has an edge.

But speed is variable on all three networks. Don't expect to regularly hit the kind of dual carrier speeds that fan boys brag about on tech blogs.

Rollout schedules
And be aware that mobile broadband will be a moveable feast over the next three to six months as Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees all rollout dual carrier to more places.

Today, Vodafone told NBR ONLINE it had 14% DC coverage, centred on the of the Auckland and Wellington CBDs. 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.

2degrees declined to say exactly where it has installed DC, but told NBR it is currently in parts of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Two weeks ago, the rollout was put at 10% of the company's network.

Telecom declined specifics, but a spokeswoman said the "first stage" of its DC rollout around the country but concentrated on Auckland and Wellington. 30% of the Telecom network would be covered by Christmas.

What's next on the upgrade hamster wheel? Some time after the 700MHz spectrum auction (next month or, more likely, early next year), pressure will start to build for 4G/LTE upgrades (don't hold your breath; Vodafone is talking up DC as a medium term alternative to 4G/LTE. And while Telecom is touting a 4G/LTE trial, it has also told investors it has only budget for a trial for its year to June, not any broader upgrade).

And, of course, beyond the "Who's fastest" battle, many customers' main demand is for more mobile data for less money.

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Comments and questions
22

What about the provinces? The Telecom XT network dominates in terms of speed and coverage.

What do you base this statement on??

My experience has been Vodafone kick TeleCON' s butt, in the provinces!

How can the telcos claim to have rolled out coverage but "we're not telling you where it is"? Surely that's kind of pathetic?

I'm happy to be corrected (earlier today I asked Telecom and 2degrees if they had coverage maps), but as far as I'm aware only Vodafone has published dal carrier coverage maps: http://www.vodafone.co.nz/network/pdfs/vfnz-dc-coverage-maps-apr-2012.pdf

Those maps are now outdated Chris, due to Vodafone's rapid DC HSPA+ Deployment.

Vodafone emailed NBR a DC coverage map dated October 19. View it here: http://www.nbr.co.nz/sites/default/files/images/VFNZ%20DC%20Coverage%201...

Shame the telcos aren't addressing the most expensive plans on the planet as per the recent news reports.

Absolutely. Dual Carrier HSPA+ is so fast you could easily stream an HD movie to your third or fourth gen iPad - but also use up your entire month's mobile data cap as you watch.

4 million people; mountainous country; population diffuse rather than concentrated. I would be surprised if New Zealand didn't have the most expensive plans on the planet!

Nothing to boast about, when the telcos are plain-out gauging the customers. Shocking.

Maybe you think upgrading mobile networks comes free?

Vodafone and speed are an oxymoron.

Just for reference. In Sydney on iPhone5, I get 31.32Mbps download, and 27.5Mbps upload

Clearly that is on a 4G / LTE network not 3G Dual carrier

Your comparing 4G LTE in Aussie to 3G in NZ. That's stupid.

You're...

I Live in Waiwera. Vodafone has no coverage, Telecom gets 12.4mbps down and 1.91 up. Independent tests are a joke, you can find anywhere you like within the "city" to give whatever result you want.

Vodafone has perfect 3G coverage in Waiwera you just need to make sure you have a handset that supports 3G on 900Mhz, Check out the Vodafone coverage map 3G 900Mhz is Orange 3G on 2100Mhz is Red

The numbers and speeds on Vodafone is a moot issue when our whole office in Mt. Wellington gets full bars of 2G, maybe one bar of 3G when standing near a window. Those on Telecom get full 3G coverage. Epitiro are more than welcome to come and test that if they'd like some more real-world results.

If they would go and redo the tests indoors where vodafone keeps falling back to 2g and people actually need broadband the results would be different.

Why use mobile broadband indoors when you can use a fixed connection or Wi-Fi. Deh!!!

This debate is about as useless as the ' Ford Vs Holden' petrol heads engage in.