Who has the iPhone 5 advantage?
Vodafone may gain a short-term advantage over Telecom and 2degrees when it comes to attracting iPhone 5 fans, but the balance could shift by the end of the year.
The latest Apple iPhone, unveiled in the United States overnight, supports a technology being rolled out by Vodafone called dual-carrier HSDPA. It is capable of providing theoretical peak download speeds of 42 megabits per second - double that of other 3G technologies such as HSPA+, deployed by Telecom.
Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners told Fairfax NZ last week that the company was spending "tens of millions of dollars" on the upgrade.
Twelve per cent of its cellsites supported the technology and it planned to have upgraded 52 per cent by March.
"That is an exclusive capability in the market - no-one else has launched at that speed," he said.
However, the latest iPhone also supports 4G technology LTE, which Telecom plans to introduce through limited customer trials later this year and which should provide even faster connections and new features.
While the debate around theoretical peak download speeds is likely to wash over many consumers, the underlying importance of faster network technologies is they let carriers support more users, at faster speeds and at a low cost 0 enabling them to put together more attractive plans with, for example, more generous data caps, without compromising network performance.
Appearing to anticipate a war of words over which network was best placed to support the iPhone 5, Stanners noted last week that dual-carrier HSDPA had been designated a "4G" technology by the International Telecommunications Union and was being marketed as such by carriers in the United States.
However, it lacks many of the characteristics of LTE that are more usually associated with 4G - such as very low latency and the ability to better manage voice calls - and it looks unlikely to shake off the "3G" tag in New Zealand. Stanners indicated Vodafone New Zealand had no plans to try to rebrand dual carrier HSDPA as a 4G technology unless provoked.
The head of Telecom's Gen-i subsidiary, Chris Quin, said in May that its LTE pilot would take place in Auckland, Wellington and some smaller centres and regions and Telecom might not take the equipment down afterwards, meaning it could evolve into a full commercial launch of 4G.
4G technology should become cheaper to deploy and more widely available after 2014, following the closure of the analogue television network and the release of "digital dividend" 700MHz radio spectrum, which Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees are all expected to bid for. Stanners had no date for its own LTE launch, but reiterated the technology was on its roadmap.
"Hopefully we'll be able to purchase some 700MHz spectrum," he said. Telecom spokeswoman Jo Jalfon said Telecom was "committed to maintaining our network advantage".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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