Vodafone has launched a 4G mobile service in parts of Auckland, giving customers there faster mobile broadband.
The service will deliver slicker mobile web browsing and faster downloads, and improve the performance of applications such as video conferencing, movie streaming and gaming.
The service, which covers 30 per cent of Auckland, will be rolled out to Christchurch in May, Wellington in August or September and to 15 towns and centres around the country by the end of the year.
Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners said it planned to begin rolling out the service in rural areas from early next year using lower-frequency radio spectrum to be auctioned by the Government later this year.
The 4G network was up to 10 times faster than standard 3G services, allowing customers to stream, download, upload, browse and game faster than ever.
Vodafone's announcement was widely expected and may have disappointed those expecting 4G to bring mobile broadband plans packed with more data.
But Stanners said 4G customers in other countries had not increased their data use dramatically and its existing data allowances were sufficient.
The service will cost an extra $10 a month on top of existing voice, text and data plans. Those paying $120 a month or more for their plan will not pay extra.
Customers will need 4G-capable smartphones and tablets to use the service. Apple's iPhone 5, iPad Retina and iPad Mini - are all compatible and currently available in New Zealand.
Customers could also buy 4G versions of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Note II, and HTC's Windows Phone 8X.
Stanners said 65,000 customers around the country already had 4G-capable devices and would just need to run a software upgrade to use the service. Those without compatible devices would have the choice of 12 devices by the middle of the year.
4G increases the data-carrying capacity of cell-sites and reduces lag, meaning telecommunications companies can 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.
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 cell sites to support the technology, but has indicated it will not launch a commercial service until late in the year.
Stanners said there had been a four-fold increase in data use in the past couple of years, and smartphones were becoming the preferred internet device.
"For many people, their smartphone has become one of the few items that they can't leave home without," he said.
"4G is the network that the best smartphones were made for, meaning you can access all the information and entertainment you want in real time - and connect faster than ever before."
He said Vodafone first trialled 4G in 2010.
The technology has the potential to improve the quality of calls, but Stanners said in this instance 4G would be used for mobile data only, with its 3G and 2G networks carrying voice calls.
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