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Monday, 10 March 2008 19:38

Vodafone cosies up to Crazy John's and chooses Ericsson for HSPA

As Vodafone builds its HSPA network with Ericsson equipment, an agreement with mobile phone retailer Crazy John’s ensures an even bigger national distribution network to capitalise on a 3.5G network that aims to compete strongly against Telstra’s Next G.

Crazy John’s may have made its initial fortune with crazy deals and reselling Telstra’s mobile network, but the next decade profit and growth look to be coming from the Vodafone network as both companies extend an ‘exclusive retail and wholesale arrangement’.

Crazy John’s wants to open another 20 stores this year across Australia to capitalise on the rapid build-out of Vodafone’s HSPA 3.5G network due for completion by December 2008.

Set to put strong pricing pressure on Telstra’s Next G network, as will Optus’ 3.5G network also due for year-end completion, Vodafone has decided Crazy John’s is the mobile retail partner that will best help it achieve its goals for sales and profit.

Russell Hewitt, CEO at Vodafone Australia said: “We’ve established a terrific relationship with Crazy John’s. Our first nine months in business together has been very successful and Vodafone is looking forward to a long and prosperous future with Crazy John’s.”

Echoing Hewitt’s sentiments, Brendan Fleiter, Managing Director at Crazy John’s, said: “Crazy John’s relationship with Vodafone brings out the best in our company and our people, with high morale and strong sales. Business at Crazy John’s has never been more positive.  This year alone, we’ll open around 20 new stores throughout Australia to capitalise on Vodafone’s national mobile broadband network expansion.” 

Meanwhile, the 3.5G network must be built, and Vodafone has decided that Ericsson has the goods to make the network happen by year’s end, saying they “selected Ericsson as its primary hardware and software vendor for the project because of the company's proven technology solution and project management expertise.”

Built using HSPA equipment capable of speeds of up-to 14.4Mbps, Vodafone says it is upgrading its 900MHz and 2100MHz mobile network in regional and rural Australia with Ericsson's latest hardware and software, which is rated to the 14.4Mbps maximum theoretical downlink standard and is amongst some of the highest specification equipment currently available for commercial deployment.

As the network is classed as HSPA, or 'high speed packet access', this means it is capable of HSDPA - high speed downlink packet access, and HSUPA - high speed uplink packet access - a speed boost for both sides of the upload/download equation.

This means that Vodafone could have 7.2Mbps class devices as with Telstra’s Next G, capable of real world download speeds up to 5Mbps, and real world upload speeds of up to 1.3Mbps.

But perhaps the network will go faster still, if we see 14.4Mbps class devices by December 2008 – please read onto page 2.

Of course we could well see 14.4Mbps class devices by the end of the year, which would operate at even faster speeds, but if that’s the case, we’ll see them from Telstra and Optus, too.
Vodafone and Ericsson say they will “deploy network engineering teams in all states and territories simultaneously to ensure more Vodafone customers in regional and rural Australia can enjoy the benefits of HSPA mobile broadband coverage this year”.

Their statement continues: “In addition to upgrading all Vodafone 2G sites to 3.5G (HSPA), a significant proportion of high-demand sites in metropolitan areas covered by the Vodafone and Optus joint venture HSPA network sharing agreement will be upgraded to provide higher specification mobile data transmission.”
Russell Hewitt, CEO at Vodafone Australia, said: "Australians deserve better mobile broadband services, and we think it's time for Vodafone to provide greater competition for the benefit of customers in our regional cities and towns. In addition to benefiting regional Australia, our national network upgrade will deliver significant increases in upload and download speeds for urban customers travelling outside the cities."
Hewitt continued: "Today's announcement is good news for residential customers looking for an alternative to fixed line internet connections and great news for business people who need mobile broadband access to the internet, email and server-based information in more areas of Australia.”
In reference to Australia’s size, a challenge Telstra has already faced with its Next G rollout, Hewitt says that: “Australia is a big country, so we've taken a pragmatic approach to our mobile broadband network investment and rollout."

Hewitt continued that: "We're upgrading our network in a way that enables Vodafone to maintain good cost control and consistently market great value deals to our customers. Vodafone's national mobile broadband upgrade will change the way many more Australians look at their mobile phones and laptops."
Vodafone expects their network will deliver mobile broadband 95% of the population, or as Vodafone puts it “95 per cent of the areas where Australians live and work”.

So, what about even faster speeds for the Vodafone network, especially with Telstra planning a 21Mbps network by the end of the year, when Vodafone will only have completed its 14.4Mbps network, with Telstra promising 42Mbps by the of 2009? Please read onto page 3.

Hewitt continued that: "Vodafone markets the best products available and we'll continue to enhance our mobile broadband network capabilities as new technology becomes available”, likely alluding to the fact that Telstra has promised a 21Mbps network by the end of 2008, outclassing Vodafone and Optus’ networks, with a 42Mbps network speed promised for the end of 2009 - although we will simply have to see what Vodafone does to compete with Telstra's faster network.

Of course, devices capable of sending and receiving data at those tremendous speeds has yet to leave the labs and make it into consumer devices – we don’t even have 14.4Mbps consumer devices as yet.

21Mbps and 42Mbps devices will also likely chew up a lot of battery power, although for plug-in devices this is less relevant. Still, battery technology will likely improve over the next couple of years, too, so it will certainly be an interesting time to watch mobile broadband developments – while WiMAX technologies come to market as well, built-into notebooks and offered by companies such as Unwired.
In comments on the Vodafone and Ericsson partnership, Bill Zikou, CEO of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, said: "Ericsson is very pleased that Vodafone has chosen to install the highest specification mobile broadband technology commercially available today. Ericsson has many of Australia's best network engineers already working on our rollout schedule and technology solution and our teams in all states and territories are keen to get started on this incredibly exciting project."
Zikou left out “profitable” – but we certainly have no qualms with that, they have to be paid, and they’re helping Vodafone build a network that will hopefully see Telstra bring its prices down. Time will tell how fast, or otherwise, that happens.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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