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Hello Vodafone… When Is 4G Coming?

The telco has previously said it will launch 4G LTE services on 1800 Mhz spectrum in the first half of this year.

But the launch of Vodafone’s 4G service will be “sooner rather than later” a spokesperson told SmartHouse this week, although failed to be more specific on timing.

However, the telco appears to be concentrating on getting its 3G network in order, first of all, before it moves on to the next big thing in mobile networks, 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), which promises much faster download/upload speeds.

“It is on our list of priorities, but our focus is still on 3G,” the spokesperson said.

Vodafone is investing over $1.7 billion into its 3G network, and faster 3G+ (Dual Carrier HSPA+) network upgrades after the network crashed in 2011, leading to a PR nightmare for Australia’s telco No. 3, with thousands fleeing the network.

Vodafone believes the demand for 4G has not yet peaked, and only once the number of 4G-ready handsets increases, will consumer demand spike. Then it will pounce.

However, it is very likely many mobile users upgrading this year will opt for a 4G device, as the telco’s push the technology more and more.

Its base station sites are equipped with 4G-ready network technology and roll out of 4G service will be “rapid” once it kicks off.

4G mobile service is still in relative infancy in Australia, and number of compatible handsets was, until recently, fairly limited.

However, the release of 4G-ready iPhone 5, did a lot to promote the network technology, along with Samsung S III, Note II, HTC 8X and several others, all now sold here at either Optus or Telstra. 
Telstra has the biggest 4G network covering 40% of the population, although they say this will increase to 66% by the end of 2013 with a $1.2bn planned expansion.

The telco claims to have over one million 4G customers, although a large chunk of this figure is believed to be mobile broadband subscribers rather than smartphone users.

However, Telstra would not be drawn on the number of 4G mobile users when contacted by SmartHouse, but a spokesperson said the information will be released at its half year earnings announcement tommorrow.

Optus too are on the 4G trail, although its coverage is still limited to a smattering of metro areas in the main cities and Newcastle, NSW, as are iiNet.

However, Optus has been shy of saying how many 4G customers it actually has on its LTE network, so far, although a spokesperson told us customer demand has been “strong but cannot provide customer numbers at this point in time.”

3G + is still Optus’ “workhorse” and “still used by the majority” of customers, Networks MD Guenther Ottendorfer said in December, and is still investing heavily in 3G+ upgrades across Oz.

But although it promises faster speeds, 4G is not all it’s cracked up to be either, as research shows 4G users are prone to higher data bills and ‘bill shock’, due to the inordinate amounts of data they consume without even being aware, due to the far higher data speeds.

Telstra’s typical 4G download speeds are 2Mbps – 40Mbps while Optus says its 4G TD LTE network has typical download speeds from 25Mbps – 87Mbps.