Vodafone has picked Ericsson for its 3G network upgrade across rural and regional Australia, with future upgrades that could take the network to 28.8Mbps already on the cards.
Ericsson will now supply Vodafone with the hardware and software necessary to upgrade the mobile operator's 900MHz and 2100MHz networks to deliver a 14.4Mbps maximum theoretical downlink . The value of the contract was not disclosed.
Users will be unable to access speeds as high as that, however, due to the limited capabilities of handsets and mobile data cards currently in the market. However, the increased bandwidth of a 14.4Mbps network will mean a greater capacity for Vodafone, allowing it to carry network traffic more efficiently.
While the upgrade will bring 3G to Vodafone's bush customers for the first time, metropolitan users who are already enjoying third generation connectivity will also get a speed bump -- seeing their theoretical maximum download speed rise from 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps.
According to a Vodafone spokesperson, teams will begin upgrading the network in all states simultaneously, with work scheduled to start in "a matter of weeks".
The spokesperson added that new devices will be launched to coincide with the higher speed network.
While Vodafone will be taking users to 7.2Mbps for the first time, rival operator Telstra is already eyeing much greater speeds: last month, CEO Sol Trujillo confirmed Telstra will be upping Next G speeds to 21Mbps this year and 42Mbps in 2009.
Vodafone, however, is eyeing its own super-fast network, with a 28.8Mbps theoretical maximum downlink.
"We are part of one of the world's largest mobile companies. We've got engineers [in Europe] testing 28.8Mbps already. One of the advantages is that when there's international R&D going on, we can cherry-pick the best hardware and software and bring it to market a lot faster.
Vodafone's European experiments will see it trial HSPA+ alongside Ericsson, Huawei and Qualcomm, to see how it performs in regards to the 28.8Mbps throughput.
"It's just a matter of time 'til we introduce similar technology [here]," Vodafone's spokesperson said.