Telstra's superfast 4G hints at Vodafone's prospects

Telstra's superfast 4G hints at Vodafone's prospects

Summary: Will 4G be Vodafone's saviour?

TOPICS: Telcos, 4G, Telstra

Telstra's brag about getting 90 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds using CAT4 4G devices in Perth could give us a hint about Vodafone's chances with 4G.

Late last year, I travelled to Perth and did a few speed tests on both Telstra's and Optus' 4G long term evolution (LTE) networks. Telstra out performed on 4G by far, where in Melbourne and Sydney, Optus was clearly ahead. There were two reasons for this: Telstra has more 1800MHz spectrum holdings in Perth than just about anywhere else, and there's fewer 4G users there than in the centre of Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane.

So it's really no great surprise that Telstra chose Perth to do this test, but to Telstra's credit, the company's executive director of networks, Mike Wright, pointed out all the conditions that would be needed (including the 20MHz of spectrum) in order to achieve those sorts of speeds.

The company's second biggest mobile rival Vodafone yesterday revealed that in tests of its yet to be launched 4G network in Sydney's eastern suburbs, it was about to get speeds of up to 67Mbps with 10 MHz of spectrum. That is, of course, without anyone else on the network, so is not a true reflection of what speeds people will end up seeing once Vodafone launches its network.

But as Vodafone pointed out, the company has 20MHz of 1800MHz spectrum in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, where as Optus has 15MHz, and Telstra has between 10MHz and 20MHz.

This means that, in theory, Vodafone could potentially see much greater speeds on its 4G network across the country once it's up and running. And even more so if Vodafone brings out a few CAT4 devices to go with it.

Of course, there will be a number of factors that could impact the performance, including the ongoing issue for Vodafone in getting sufficient fibre backhaul on its network to ensure that it can deliver those fast speeds.

We won't know until we get our hands on the 4G devices to test them out, but there's a good chance that starting from scratch with no 4G customers, competing against Telstra's existing 4G network with 1.5 million 4G customers and less spectrum in the 1800MHz band, we will see Vodafone outperforming Telstra, and most likely Optus, too.

And so it's no great surprise that Telstra announced this morning that it would look to start trialling the next stage of LTE, called LTE-Advanced, which offers greater speeds and the ability to combine spectrum bands, such as the 1800MHz and the 900MHz bands.

But any potential speed win for Vodafone might end up being short-lived. When Telstra buys up 700MHz in the digital dividend auction in April, if it wins the full allowance of 25MHz in the 700MHz band, along with what Telstra picks up in the 2.5GHz band, Telstra will have a fair bit of spectrum around the country to use for 4G.

The difficulty for Vodafone will be building back the trust in the company after two years of a reputation for having a less-than-stellar network, as it continues to shed customers by the truckload. The 3G overhaul has been completed, and the so-called "3G Plus" upgrades are well on their way to completion, but perhaps what might get people to reconsider the troubled company is a brand new super-fast 4G network with prices that will no doubt win back some of those disgruntled customers.

What do you think? Is 4G Vodafone's saviour?

Topics: Telcos, 4G, Telstra


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • As you note, it is a trust issue . . .

    Simply implementing 4G won't save Vodafone

    People left because of the poor performance an reliability of the network. There is little chance of them returning until they are convinced that the network is stable and reliable. Vodafone need to prove that they and their network can be trusted.
  • Marketing Madness

    Part of the problem for Vodafone is that the organisation is driven from a Marketing organisation - in other words what can be marketed is more of a concern than the right or best technical solution. All of this talk of 20Mhz is a classic example - the argument that they can out perform Telstra because of the 20Mhz is a nonsense simply because they will never have enough transmission to support any reasonable number of users at any speed that the 20 could deliver over the 10Mhz. And then as the article points out once the 700Mhz arrives if Vodafone have not procured any then immediately they will fall behind on both coverage and data speeds. They are in an awful situation right now and all of the talk in the world from Marketing Morrow cannot change that. They should be swallowing their pride , investing in 700 to secure a chance to compete in the future and actually get on with fixing their customer service. Announcements from Morrow this week that they will spend more this year than ever before on the network but declining to say how much show just how fixated they are on spin rather than focus and work.
  • Pricing needs to change as well

    Unfortunately vodafone have introduced very similar pricing to telstra, with a network that is of sub-telstra standard. They are only slighly better value on some of the inclusions like international calls being included in caps, but not on the big ticket stuff like local/mobile calls, and data.

    They need to have a rethink on pricing, if they can get back to the pricing they had in 2011, along with a better 4G network, that's what will win customers back.

    As good as the 4G proposition sounds for vodafone, they still have an issue when people are indoors or step outside 4G coverage and jump back onto a 3G network that is still failing in many areas.

    The far northern suburbs of Adelaide still get 0.2mbps speeds during the day, despite several upgrades. 4G is proposed for the area but if the network is so congested as to be unuseable on a Thursday morning, what's going to happen to 4G?
  • Vodafone will survive :)

    As a Vodafone customer since 2004, my experience has been good enough for me to get by with, any problem with regards to my mobile phone I have been able to resolve and get by with and anything else that I couldn’t I was able to talk to Vodafone to resolve successfully. Vodafone post-paid and pre-paid offer are so much better than what other Telco are offering for their mobile phone, even better than Telstra! There are still many satisfied Vodafone customer that intend to stay on faithfully.

    Before I purchased my iPhone 5 outright from Apple, I still choose Vodafone SIM only plan which is really good for what I have to pay in comparison to other Telco non plan post-paid deals.

    So overall regardless of the pointless complaints I see on social media today it stills not enough to convince me to switch to another network. I’m still getting good service from Vodafone and it’s getting better overtime.

    I think it’s awesome that Optus and Vodafone are working together to build more 4G towers, coverage and all that jazz, like they did before back in around 2004-05, which is another advantage in challenging Telstra in the long run.

    The good thing about 4G being available also make less people using 3G, allowing for more faster speeds for 3G only phones, while 4G users can get a better experience overall. The upside to fewer customers also can mean faster service for those that stay.
    I am looking forward to using 4G LTE on Vodafone when its ready in my state
  • I would have said Vodafone AUSTRALIA will survive until....

    Last December when I went for a road trip from where I live West of Sydney to Broken Hill.

    I got the usual on/off reception anyone gets when country driving until Nyngan and then from the outer Western edge of reception there until almost IN Broken Hill there was no coverage whatsoever. To be fair, in the middle of the Barrier Highway between Wilcannia and Broken Hill, I would find it hard to believe ANYONE had mobile phone access at all but in the middle of Wilcannia and Cobar my 4G capable Galaxy Note 2 had no reception at all. Other people, presumably Telstra and possibly Optus, were walking down the street in the middle of those towns, on their mobile phones, happily using them.

    If Vodafone doesnt cover the bush, then Australians will flock to what does. Take this into account - apart from happy holiday making families at Christmas time who might drive interstate via Broken Hill, there are one HUGE lot of Grey Nomads doing "the tour" driving along expecting their mobile phones and tablets to work. The "truism" amongst such people is "Before setting out, switch to Telstra for best nationwide coverage" and they are right. While where I live, Vodafone is the best coverage, it certainly wasnt on the way to Broken Hill. Grey Nomads are numerous and they have money. If Vodafone dont build the network to cover the needs of more than just Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, they dont have much of a future.