Vodafone preferred 3G provider for PlayStation Vita

news Vodafone and Sony Computer Entertainment this week announced a partnership that will deliver Vodafone preferred provider status for 3G connectivity for the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) handheld console in Australia.

The exclusive global carrier arrangement follows the recent announcement of a partnership covering Ireland, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and with Vodafone’s partners in France. PlayStation Vita will launch in stores across Australia on February 23rd, 2012. Sony has introduced a pre-order campaign for PS Vita from November 17th.

Vodafone Australia recently announced an improvement in customer experience thanks to its accelerated network and service enhancements kicking in. Its new 850MHz network currently has 900 sites live, and provides service to mobile broadband devices, smartphones and Vodafone’s soon-to-be-launched mobile gaming device. Vodafone had also announced that new equipment had been installed at 2,000 sites in its existing network. The company plans to have 1,500 sites in the new 850 MHz network and 8,000 sites where equipment will be replaced by mid-2012.

The 3G/Wi-Fi model of PS Vita sold through retail channels will have a Vodafone SIM card to enable users to immediately enjoy mobile social gaming experiences. The PS Vita 3G/Wi-Fi model will also be available directly from Vodafone channels, both in-store and online, for $449.

Vodafone is offering an exclusive range of plans that includes the option of a $0 upfront payment on contract for the PS Vita 3G/Wi-Fi model. Flexibility in data plans has been introduced to meet users’ needs. Vodafone will announce more details about data plans and pricing closer to the PS Vita launch, and it has invited customers to register at its website for more information. As a bonus, customers connecting with Vodafone will get a free PlayStation Network voucher for downloading the high-speed, anti-gravity racing title WipEout 2048 from PlayStation Store.

Ross Parker, General Manager of Devices at Vodafone Australia said, “Next year’s launch of the Sony PS Vita on the new Vodafone 3G network marks an exciting new direction for us as we move into the world of personal mobile gaming.”

Several questions re raised by this partnership. Firstly, given that it appears you’ll be able to use other SIM cards with your PS Vita, what impact will this have upon Vodafone? I’ve seen a huge amount of interest in the PS Vita through Delimiter’s traffic logs whenever we’ve published an article about it. Will this translate into some great sign-up numbers for Vodafone? I’m not sure yet.

Secondly, will people actually buy the 3G version of the Vita, as opposed to just getting the Wi-Fi version? I’m not sure. Previous portable gaming consoles haven’t really utilised 3G mobile broadband much, but the Vita is more built around Internet access than previous handhelds. Of course, many Australians already have 3G smartphones capable of sharing Internet access through wireless tethering. If I was going to buy a Vita, accessing the Internet through my other devices would be a no-brainer. I am hazarding a guess at this point that most Australians don’t want yet another 3G connection plan. It’ll be interesting to see.

Image credit: Sony. Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay