Vodafone launches 3G mobile service

update Vodafone today unveiled its third-generation (3G) high-speed mobile phone service, going head-to-head with competitors Hutchison, Telstra and eventually Optus. The carrier's service will initially be available in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, in addition to the airports of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

update Vodafone today unveiled its third-generation (3G) high-speed mobile phone service, going head-to-head with competitors Hutchison, Telstra and eventually Optus.

The carrier's service will initially be available in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, in addition to the airports of Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Customers will be able to enjoy a range of services including mobile TV, video calling, games and music, among others.

Vodafone previously said the network will be rolled out to Brisbane and the Gold Coast by March 2006, and Perth and Adelaide by July next year.

Vodafone Live 3G service
Click to enlarge

Like Hutchison Telecommunications and Telstra, Vodafone will offer 3G access via selected mobile phones, and a PC Card-based broadband modem for wireless Internet access.

Vodafone's phone service is based on its Vodafone Live! multimedia platform, which it has been using in Australia and other countries for some time.

Six handset models -- Sharp 903, Motorola V1050, Samsung Z500, Sony Ericsson V600, Sony Ericsson V800, and Nokia 6680 -- which have been trialled by more than 500 people over the last three months will be available at launch.

There are myriad ways to sign up for the 3G service. The phones will retail between $149 and $949, which is the price for the Sharp 903, Australia's first three megapixel camera phone. Monthly plans start at $49 while most rich media content will be charged on a usage basis. For instance, each music track is $2.79.

The PC Card will cost $400 or $16.63 for 24 months, and has a maximum speed of 384Kbps. Three monthly broadband plans are available: $29.95 for 100MB, $49.95 for 300MB and $99.95 for unlimited downloads -- which will be subject to a 'fair use' policy after the 1GB mark is surpassed. Otherwise, customers will be charged 0.2 cents for every additional kb.

Vodafone shares the same 3G network infrastructure as Optus -- the two carriers partnered on a network-sharing deal earlier this year. Optus has yet to deploy its third-generation mobile offering.

According to Vodafone chief marketing officer John Casey, the carrier has 3.2 million customers, including 430,000 who already use the Vodafone Live! platform. It also has 8,000 clients using its existing 2.5G network to access the Web from notebooks.

Casey said at present, Vodafone's 3G network covered around 75 percent of Sydney, 55 percent of Melbourne, and 90 percent of Canberra.

Hutchison was the first operator to launch third-generation mobile telephony in Australia. Called '3', it registered 532,000 subsribers as at June 2005.