Technical teams will work simultaneously in all states and territories to upgrade existing Vodafone 2G base station sites to the 3.5G HSPA standard. Scheduled to be completed by December, the new network should deliver data speeds of 14.4 megabits per second.
The deal is a significant win for Ericsson and follows the lucrative Next G network deal it has in place with Telstra.
Vodafone says the new network will cover “95 per cent of the areas where Australians live and work”. While this falls short of Telstra’s coverage, it will provide many regional users with a viable alternative to Next G.
Telstra has been criticised for keeping its data charges on Next G significantly higher than those of its competitors. The carrier currently charges more than $100 per month for 3GB of data usage on Next G. Meanwhile Vodafone is offering a 5GB package for a $39 monthly fee.
As well as upgrading all its 2G sites around Australia, Vodafone also plans to upgrade a number of its metropolitan sites currently covered by its joint venture with Optus.
“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,” Vodafone Australia chief executive Russell Hewitt said in a statement today.
“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.”
The carrier says all existing phones and broadband data devices will continue to function normally, however anyone wanting to take advantage of the improved speeds will need to upgrade their hardware.
Vodafone says the planned national upgrade will also improve overall network coverage as well as capacity for SMS and voice calls.
Ericsson has confirmed it already has teams of engineers working on a roll-out schedule for the upgrade. The experience the company gained through its rapid deployment of Next G will doubtless assist it this time around.
Meanwhile Telstra is planning to upgrade the data speeds available through Next G. The carrier has announced it will crank peak speeds up to 42Mbps by 2009 and to more than 100Mbps after that.