If it feels like Vodafone has been trying to rebuild its network and its reputation forever, that’s because it started way back at the beginning of 2011 and has been doing a rather poor job so far. But there are finally some new services in sight: Vodafone says it will begin offering higher-speed ‘3G+’ services in September this year, with 4G to follow at some point in 2013.
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What Vodafone is calling 3G+ is actually DC-HSPA+, which Telstra rolled out on its own networks under the ‘Ultimate’ brand name back in September 2010. Vodafone’s plans are a little less ambitious: it will offer the service in selected metropolitan locations from September this year.
It hasn’t yet announced any devices to support the higher-speed standard, but an upgrade to its existing Wi-Fi hotspot will presumably be high on the agenda. Vodafone also hasn’t specified any target speeds for the new services, which arguably makes sense given its patchy record. Plans for 4G are even hazier, with rollout of LTE services beginning in 2013 in “selected areas”.
Having recently partnered with Optus to share some tower locations, Vodafone also says that its ongoing upgrade to its existing network will be completed by the end of this year, with NSW and Victoria the main areas that haven’t yet been completed.
Where does that put Vodafone relative to its competitors? Optus is testing 4G LTE in NSW and says it will have some metropolitan services later this year, as well as working on test centres for its planned LTE-TDD services. Telstra has easily the most advanced rollout.
It’s good to have strong competition, but this doesn’t quite feel like enough to make Vodafone a major contender. What do you think?