Vodafone customers who have patiently waited for 4G are in for a pleasant surprise today, with the company beginning to activate 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services for customers across parts of Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Wollongong.
Vodafone's 4G network, which has been in development for several years in conjunction with the company's 3G network overhaul, will initially boast much faster download and upload speeds than those achievable by Telstra and Optus in most areas, because the company has access to 2x20MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 1800MHz band for 4G.
In ideal situations, Vodafone has said that customers will be able to achieve download speeds of up to 100Mbps.
"Vodafone customers in 4G areas with compatible devices will have access to speeds that are among the fastest not only in the country, but in many parts of the world," Vodafone Australia CEO Bill Morrow said in a statement.
Vodafone is initially only making the service available to existing customers who have 4G devices, and will begin signing up new customers for 4G in July.
The company has lost around 1.5 million customers since 2010 on the back of network and customer service issues. Since then, Vodafone has invested over AU$1 billion overhauling its network, and has moved to address customer service issues with policies like the network guarantee to allow customers to get out of their contract in the first 30 days if the network doesn't meet their expectations.
The soft launch to existing customers also highlights the shift in the telecommunications market away from a drive for customer acquisition to rewarding customer loyalty. Optus CEO Kevin Russell said last month that he believes the industry had gone backwards in terms of customer perception since 2006, and that Optus itself is looking to serve customers, rather than just being hard-wired to sell to customers. Telstra, too, has introduced a "Thanks" program designed to reward customers who are with the telco.
Despite this shift, at results time, each company still reports the number of devices sold in that quarter or half. Vodafone will have some ground to make up on both Optus and Telstra. Telstra has sold 2.1 million 4G devices so far, while Optus has sold 785,000 4G handsets.
The launch in Australia beat out sister company Vodafone UK, which is set to launch its 4G LTE network later this year.