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Vodafone switches on 4G+ for Melbourne customers

Melbourne is the second city to have access to Vodafone's 4G+ network, which was switched on today.

Vodafone has improved its 4G mobile phone coverage for Melbourne customers after the company switched on its 4G+ network, otherwise known as 4GX or LTE Advanced, on Monday.

678 Vodafone 4G+ sites went live in Victoria, with another 71 expected to be switched on over the next six weeks. It is the second city following Adelaide to receive the high-speed 4G coverage . Adelaide was switched on last month, with other metropolitan cities in Australia expected to be switched on before Christmas.

This complements the 4G coverage already provided through Vodafone's 1800MHz spectrum, which the company switched on in parts of Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Wollongong in June last year.

Vodafone said that there are now almost 2 million devices in Australia connected to Vodafone's 4G network.

Vodafone chief technical officer Benoit Hanssen said that all customers in Melbourne with 4G smartphones and tablets will now be able to enjoy better data coverage.

"Customers will immediately notice the difference right across the city following the mass switch-on of new 4G+ coverage today," he said in a statement.

"The type of spectrum we've used for our new network means customers' devices will work better indoors, including homes, businesses, shopping malls, and car parks."

The switch follows Vodafone's announcement in July that it would boost the company's 4G coverage to reach 95 percent of Australia's metropolitan population by the end of the year. It is part of Vodafone's refarming process of its existing 850MHz spectrum, which had previously been used for its 3G network.

The company also highlighted that the majority of its customers' existing 4G devices are already compatible with the new 4G+ coverage. This is in comparison to other telcos, such as Telstra, Optus, and TPG, that opted to expand their 4G coverage by picking up spectrum in 700MHz bands through last year's Australian Communications and Media Authority spectrum auctions. A small subset of available handsets are currently compatible with the 700MHZ band, including Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC's One M8.

"We've tested all the major smartphones to see how they perform on our new 4G network, including the popular iPhone 5 and 6 models and Samsung Galaxy. What it means for customers is that they'll notice the 4G or LTE symbol on their phone more often, meaning they have faster download speeds," Hanssen said.

In addition, Optus announced that its 4G 2600MHz has been switched on in 40 regional centres, including in Toowoomba, Ballarat, Bendigo, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Nowra, Port Macquarie, Urunga, Bundaberg, and Murray Bridge. Early access licence approvals have also been granted from the Australian Communications and Media Authority for Optus' 4G 700MHz in 200 regional locations. From January 2015, the 4G 700MHz spectrum will become nationally available for commercial use.

Earlier this month, Optus announced that it had expanded its existing 4G 700MHz coverage across greater Darwin .

Optus networks managing director Vic McClelland said that Optus will continue to upgrade towers and test before switching on 4G 700MHz, but, when live, regional customers will enjoy faster mobile internet experience.

"Already, we have turned on our first 4G [2600MHz] sites in more than 40 towns, and will continue to light up 4G on both 2600MHz and 700MHz spectrum as it becomes available," he said.

Optus said that there are plans to make Optus' 4G network available to 90 percent of the Australian population by April 2015.