Vodafone has announced it's the latest mobile operator to invest in HSDPA — otherwise known as Super 3G.
The operator said that after trialling the technology around the Newbury, where Vodafone is based, it will start piloting the service with 100 business users in Greater London.
Vodafone expects to start phasing in HSDPA from the second half of 2006, starting with the area inside the M25. At first, HSDPA connectivity will only be available via data cards and laptops embedded with the technology. John Lillistone, Vodafone's head of enterprise data, said HSDPA-compatible phones will eventually appear; timing is "very much in the hands of the manufacturers".
According to Lillistone, Vodafone will be able to expand its capacity threefold and reduce latency as well as significantly boosting uplink speeds for users.
He said: "It's surprising how quickly customers got used to the revolutionary speed increase 3G gave them — now they're coming back and saying, 'It's great but can't we go a bit faster?'."
The other three major UK networks have already committed to using HSDPA. O2 was the first off the block with the launch of a small network in the Isle of Man while Orange recently announced it will be deploying the technology in the second half of this year. T-Mobile's HSDPA plans remain the most advanced, with a full-scale launch planned for this year.
Vodafone has yet to commit to a UK-wide deployment but recent comments from Arun Sarin, the company's chief executive suggest the operator is already looking towards the next generation of 'wireless broadband' technologies such as WiMax.
The operator, which recently revealed it's in talks to sell its Japanese arm, could also be set to divest itself of its US operations too.
In response to the acquisition of Bell South by AT&T earlier this week, AT&T released a statement saying it was looking to get hold of Vodafone's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, according to Reuters.
Robin Herne, principal analyst at Ovum, said a Vodafone exit from Verizon Wireless wouldn't benefit either the UK or US companies involved.
He said: "I'm not convinced it's the right time to sell for Vodafone, equally, I don't think it's a bad thing for Verizon to hold onto it — it's good for them to not spend all their cash on Vodafone.
"I think the right time will be when Vodafone has somewhere else to go in the North America environment," such as an acquisition of T-Mobile or even of Alltel.