update Mobile carrier Vodafone today switched on an upgrade to its third-generation (3G) mobile phone network that allows significantly higher download speeds in limited areas of Sydney and Melbourne.
At a press conference in Sydney this morning, Vodafone executive Dave McNaughton said the upgrade to the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) protocol would deliver typical download speeds of 600kbps to 1.4Mbps, peaking at 1.8Mbps. The previous 3G service was limited to 384Kbps.
The upload speed has improved to a peak speed of 384Kbps, up from 128Kbps.
However, the higher speeds are so far only available in inner metro areas of Sydney and Melbourne, in addition to some airport facilities. McNaughton said around 45 percent of Vodafone's existing mobile broadband customers lived or worked in these areas.
In comparison, Telstra's Next G HSDPA network launched a fortnight ago covers some 98 percent of the population, and offers similar typical speeds, but peaking at 3.6Mbps.
Unlike Telstra, Vodafone has not yet launched HSDPA-capable handsets for the service, but has been selling a compatible Huawei-based PCMCIA data card for laptops for the last month.
That card retails for AU$299, although Vodafone is currently offering a AU$70 discount for customers of its existing 3G service. An equivalent USB modem will debut in early November for AU$399.
Other access options include several models of Hewlett-Packard (6400) and Lenovo (R60, T60, X60, Z61) laptops with inbuilt HSDPA hardware, or a AU$299 Linksys wireless router which can share the connection, but also requires the user to purchase the AU$299 data card.
Vodafone will offer the higher speeds to customers at the same price and download limits as its existing plans, ranging from AU$29.95 to AU$99.95 per month, with download limits ranging from 100MB to 1GB.
As a launch promotion until 31 December, the carrier is offering two months' free subscription to the 1GB plan, which normally costs AU$99.95 per month.
Vodafone does not have any lock-in contracts for the mobile broadband plans, with customers able to switch between plans at will.
Speaking with ZDNet Australia at the launch, Vodafone's general manager of Business Markets, Edward Goff, declined to name any substantial local customer wins, but said the carrier was targeting home office workers and small to medium businesses. The service had also proved popular with large corporates, he said.
Goff said Vodafone was aware of Telstra's own network but was focusing on its own plans.
Vodafone claims some 3.47 million Australian customers.