Vodafone 4G announcement this week

Vodafone is expected to announce the launch of its first 4G mobile services on Thursday.

There have been reports on Twitter that many of its cellsites have been upgraded to support the new technology.

A spokeswoman said today the company would make an announcement on Thursday morning but would not comment further.

4G increases the data-carrying capacity of cellsites and reduces lag, meaning telecommunications companies would be able to use the technology to support faster mobile broadband plans with higher data caps, and to better-support new services that rely on low latency, such as group video-conferencing and mobile gaming.

The technology also has the potential to greatly improve the quality of mobile phone calls, but this depends on how it is deployed.

Vodafone's 4G service will use a higher-frequency spectrum and for that reason is likely to be initially confined to more densely-populated urban areas.

But the footprint of the service that is expected to be announced on Thursday is tipped to be considerably larger than that now being used for a Telecom customer trial.

Telecom began trialling 4G with about 100 customers, including Westpac, Mitre 10, Television New Zealand and Hutt Valley District Health Board, in Auckland and Wellington this month.

It has upgraded 30 cellsites to support the technology, but has indicated it will not launch a commercial service until towards the end of the year.

Speaking in Wellington, Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter said telcos would need to have access to the low-frequency "digital radio" spectrum in order to provide 4G services economically outside major urban centres. A lower-frequency spectrum allows cellsites to be more-widely spaced and to provide better in-building coverage.

That spectrum is due to be auctioned by the Government before October and will become available to mobile operators in December, once the last analogue television transmissions are turned off.

Meanwhile, 2degrees has revealed it spent $15 million buying a block of higher-frequency spectrum in the 1800MHz band from Telstra, following the sale of TelstraClear to Vodafone.

A spokeswoman was unable to immediately confirm whether that might be used for 4G.

The Dominion Post