update Mobile carrier Vodafone today said on 20 October it would switch on an upgrade to its third-generation (3G) mobile phone network that would allow significantly higher data download speeds.
The upgrade to the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) protocol, will theoretically allow Vodafone to provide speeds of up to 14.4Mbps over the mobile network, which currently extends to metro areas of most capital cities and major international airports.
Vodafone's network is currently limited to speeds of around 384kbps download and 128kbps upload, with the HSDPA upgrade immediately allowing improved speeds of 1.8Mbps download and 384kbps upload in Sydney and Melbourne metro areas.
Although Vodafone shares the network with Optus, a spokesperson for the SingTel subsidiary could not confirm a launch date for its own HSDPA upgrade, saying only the telco had successfully completed "lab trials" of the technology. "We will be testing more broadly in the coming months," they said via e-mail.
Other carriers such as Hutchison and Telstra are also currently upgrading their 3G networks to provide HSDPA-based services.
Vodafone's move comes as Telstra is expected this Friday to give the public insight into the ongoing deployment of its 850Mhz national 3G network.
Getting down to details
Vodafone will immediately start selling the new PCMCIA data cards needed to access the higher speeds, at a recommended retail price of AU$299, or AU$12.46 per month over 24 months (interest-free).
"Vodafone will release its HSDPA/3G USB modem in November, 2006, and it expects HSDPA mobile handsets to be available for retail sale in the first half of 2007," a statement issued by the carrier this morning said.
Other access options include Lenovo Thinkpad laptops with in-built connectivity and Linksys routers to share the bandwidth.
Vodafone said the launch followed a successful three-week testing program involving some 40 Vodafone customers on Sydney's lower north shore region.
The carrier added it would release further details of its network footprints on 20 October, in addition to rollout plans for other Australian cities in 2007.
Despite the increased bandwidth, Vodafone's monthly mobile broadband plans still offer limited amounts of downloads.
The carrier has three plans ranging from AU$29.95 to AU$99.95 per month, with download limits ranging from 100MB to 1GB. For the prices charged, these plans offer smaller download limits than comparable fixed broadband plans.
Vodafone claims some 3.47 million Australian customers.