Vodafone’s 4G rollout starts in 2013


news Vodafone has revealed it will start rolling out 4G speeds to its national mobile network from 2013 in a belated effort to catch up to its rivals Telstra and Optus, who will have started their own national 4G rollouts 18 months and almost a year previously at that stage.

Telstra currently has an extensive lead over both Optus and Vodafone when it comes to the deployment and customer uptake of the next generation of mobile infrastructure, known as 4G for fourth generation, as compared to the current 3G networks all three have deployed. After first switching on its 4G network in September last year, Telstra recently announced it had rolled out some 1,000 4G base stations around the nation, and had some 300,000 devices connected to the network already.

In comparison, Optus has only launched its own 4G network in the Newcastle. However, over the past week Optus has confirmed its 4G rollout will take place across a number of Australian capital cities over the next several months, with the telco additionally claiming its own fledgling 4G infrastructure will be the “highest capacity” and “best-performing” mobile network in Australia when it is completed.

For its own part, Vodafone has been relatively quiet about its own 4G plans. The company has previously confirmed plans to follow Telstra and Optus in providing 4G speeds in Australia, but has not yet even deployed the substantial upgrades to its network which will allow it to provide what is known as ‘dual-carrier’ speeds on the HSPA+ standard (DC-HSPA+), which Telstra has had in its network for some time.

However, all that is slated to change, according to a memo Vodafone’s head office circulated amongst its retail and sales teams this morning.

In the memo, Vodafone noted that its current average download speed across its network was 1Mbps. However, the telco told its staff, from September it would start upgrading its 3G network to support DC-HSPA+, which supports speeds of between 1Mbps and 16Mbps, with an average download speed of 8Mbps. The new DC-HSPA+ areas of its network, which will be branded “3G+”, will be rolled out in “selected metropolitan areas of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, Melbourne (including Geelong and the Mornington Peninsula), Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth. It will then continue on a “progressive basis” to other parts of Australia.

The DC-HSPA+ portions of Vodafone’s network will be deployed across all of its existing frequencies — 850MHz, 900MHz and 2100MHz, but customers will need to be using a compatible device to take advantage of the increased speeds. Telstra deployed DC-HDPA+ in January 2010, while Optus is believed to have begun rolling out the increased speeds from mid-2011.

And Vodafone’s 4G rollout is also under way, the telco told its staff. “In 2013, we will begin to rollout our new 4G network to deliver even faster download speeds of up to 15x faster than our current 3G download speeds,” the company wrote in its memo.

If this statement is consistent with the rest of the memo, it appears that the company is implying that its 4G network will be capable of average download speeds of about 15Mbps.
When the telco announced its Newcastle 4G rollout, Optus was believed to have been seeing download speeds up to 50Mbps on the 4G network, with upload speeds up to 20Mbps. Last week it said the network was capable of typical download speeds ranging from 25Mbps to 87Mbps. Telstra says its own 4G network is capable of download speeds between 2Mbps and 40Mbps, and upload spees between 1Mbps to 10Mbps. However, recent real-world tests using HTC’s 4G One XL handset on the network in Sydney have shown speeds of around 35Mbps down and up between 15Mbps and 25Mbps.

Vodafone’s memo released this morning reveals the company is quite likely 18 months or more behind Telstra when it comes to the deployment of 4G technology, and a year behind Optus. It also reveals that it is a stunning two and a half years behind Telstra when it comes to the deployment of DC-HSPA+, and likely more than a year behind Optus in this area.

To put this into context, Vodafone wrote in its memo to staff this morning that the average download speed of its 3G network was 1Mbps.

I’m heading into the Sydney central business district this afternoon. When I do so, I’ll take my HTC One XL with me, on which I’ve regularly been getting download speeds of 35Mbps, sometimes as low as 25Mbps. So right now, if you have the right equipment in the right area, you can get download speeds through Telstra 35 times as fast as you can through Vodafone, or perhaps only 17 or 8 times as fast, if you accept that Vodafone’s network might run faster than 1Mbps if you’re in the right area.

I know I have been harping on about this quite a lot recently, but there is a great deal of evidence right now that competition in Australia’s mobile telecommunications market is dying. The memo issued to its staff this week illustrates that Vodafone is unlikely ever to be able to provide anywhere near to a comparable mobile service to Telstra; and it’s also going to continue to be a long way behind Optus.

I know that there is a renewed spirit of optimism within Vodafone at the moment, with the company continuing to invest in its network under new management. We are gradually seeing a new Vodafone emerge from the wreckage of the old, and I still do have some optimism about the future of the company. Not all consumers care about really fast mobile download speeds; some merely want acceptable browsing speeds for a decent price, and Vodafone’s network is rapidly (and I mean very rapidly) improving in this direction. There a lot of unsung heroes amongst Vodafone’s staff ranks who have poured their heart into keeping this company afloat, and I want to pay tribute to their efforts and acknowledge that the term ‘Vodafail’ has become increasingly irrelevant over the past few months as the company’s network quality has come ahead in leaps and bounds.

However, I do continue to wonder what Australia’s mobile telecommunications landscape will look like in half a decade or so. The future of our third player is still very much up in the air; as this morning’s information release demonstrates. If Australian mobile consumers go the way I think they will go, and continue to demand ever greater levels of network performance from their telcos, a day may come when the current bleed of customers away from Vodafone turns into a huge gush.


  1. Personally, I think the moves by both Optus and Vodaphone are as much to do with the NBN as mobile phones. There is going to be a big push to offer similar (or identical) services to the NBN, as thats one of the few areas these companies can compete.

    So they are going to need to stay at the top of the game or get left behind. I think they realise this now, as well as the fact that no matter who wins the next election, their stance in the 4G game has long term meaning to their company bottom line. Investment now means profits in the future.

  2. Happy with hearing this , my speeds have been improving and on my Samsung I regularly get 4mbps to 6 mbps, network certainly has improved for me in the past few months , look forward to more next year!

  3. Cheers Renai. I might have been beaten to the punch this morning by one of the other tech staff, but we’re all keen to finally have a CEO that has some interest in us all :)

    • By the way Renai, DC-HSPA+ actually stands for Dual-Cell High Speed Packet Access, not Dual-Carrier as is stated in your 4th paragraph.

      HSPA+ standard can allow up-to 337Mb/s on 3GPP Standard 11. The DC-HSPA+ you’re referring to requires an alternative later of modulation which we dont have a provisioned spectrum for. If we wanted to rollout a DC-HSPA+ network it would need to be in the U900mhz band. This may still happen, but unfortunately for you all, im not the planner, merely the builder :)

      • As a side point of interest – there will be SOME cells at will be dc-hspa+ compatible. For the whole network – not as far as I’m currently aware. Most sites should still only see hspa+ , to 7.2mbps. Once the fibre links are connected we’ll see a solid boost.

  4. I really hope Vodafone can rise to the occasion. I’d probably never go back to them (but that involves a whole heap of reasons having worked there) but we desperately need competition in the 4G arena.

    I want to see coverage skyrocket, prices nose dive, more plans to choose from. and most importantly; for monthly data allowances to grow to realistically high figures to match the high speeds of next gen wireless. Having Vodafone in the game will hopefully help that occur.

    • “coverage skyrocket, prices nose dive,”

      You are aware those two are pretty opposing points? Vodafone is already the cheapest, but you want them to go even lower *and* provide more coverage & bandwidth? It’s one or the other, dude.

      • He means he would like 4G coverage to increase (due to Vfone and Optus’ networks coming online).

        And extra players (telcos) means more competition in the 4G market, which should reduce prices of 4G phones/plans.

  5. For my money, Vodafone has infinitely more chance of actually delivering on this stuff than optus does.

    I left optus due to its heavily congested network in November 2011 and I’ve been reasonably happy ever since. At least in areas where vodafones 3g isn’t up to scratch, they have quite an excellent EDGE deployment to fall back on to get the basics done. (Like loading delimiter and Facebook)

    On optus, you are lucky to get 40kbps of speed on 2G. The Vodafone network might not be great but at least its reasonably consistent, at the price.

    I take issue with the statement that optus have been deploying dc-hspa for over a year. Putting it on a handful of base stations as a token gesture, usually in areas where congestion wasn’t much of a problem to begin with, is not a deployment, its a joke. Its just like the optus edge deployment on 2G that you almost never see.

    These days I have 12 month prepaid Sims with the other carriers as well, but most of my money goes to Vodafone. I can’t see that changing when my contract is up in 2013.

    Hopefully adelaide isn’t excluded from vodafones initial 4G roll out like optus have done.

  6. “Vodafone wrote in its memo to staff this morning that the average download speed of its 3G network was 1Mbps”

    So half of all Vodafone users see less than 1Mbps, and presumably quite a lot of them see a lot less. That is pathetic in 2012, and it’s little wonder there are so many people leaving.

    I still have a Vodafone mobile broadband account which I’ve been meaning to get rid of for over a year now, but every time I try to cancel it I’m offered 3 months free access along with various promises that the network is being improved and will be awesome real soon now, honest! So like a sucker I say yes, and meanwhile the download speeds have been getting worse if anything.

    I just fired up speedtest.net and the results are even worse than I thought: 0.64 Mbps down and 1.03 Mbps up. This is at 3pm in the Brisbane CBD, and I have 5 bars of reception according to my Pocket Wifi modem. I think I’ll call them up again tomorrow and cancel this sorry excuse for a “broadband” service.

    • “So half of all Vodafone users see less than 1Mbps, and presumably quite a lot of them see a lot less. That is pathetic in 2012”


      • lol , clearly you are not a mathematician …. average does not mean mid-range …. 3 people one aged 29 , one aged 28 , one aged 27 … what’s the average age ? 28 ! Spare me!

        • Yes Mitch, however, “average” 1Mbps, means that, either, many, many people are getting around 1Mbps….which is hopeless. Or many many people are getting much higher and few are getting VERY low…..Or, many, many people are getting lower and a few are getting MUCH higher…..

          Averages have a habit, in the real world, of being very different from what the “average” user sees. A MUCH better measure in this case, would be the median. But, the median is inherently biased towards what the highest number of users get…..and there’s often a REASON people don’t use the median. Because it can make the numbers seem much MUCH worse….

          The fact is, ANY “average” of 1Mbps is utterly hopeless in 2012 as Jeremy has said. Vodafone have not spent the time, effort and money in ensuring they have kept good competition with the other major players and now, it will be a monumental effort to even draw level with them again.

          As I commented before, I think we’re seeing the dying days of one of the first and most innovative mobile telco’s in Australia, due to negligence (by the parent and board, not the workers Master_T :D) and short-sightedness

        • “Average” is an overloaded term. “Mean”, “median”, “mode” are all kinds of averages. Median, which you’re calling “mid-range” is a kind of average. Just as “mean” is (which is the sum of all numbers divided by their count). I’m not sure what you mean by the 27, 28, 29 thing. The median and mean is 28 in that list.

          But all that is beside the point. 1Mb/s is a horrible average, whichever definition you use.

  7. I cannot understand why Voda didn’t do a 4G rollout as part of its recent (and ongoing) base station swapout. The fact that they intended to do HSPA+ but didn’t do it as part of that is even more bizarre. They deserve to be so far behind.

  8. Some people couldn’t give a toss about mobile broadband speed, which is why the bleed will never become a gush. Personally I’m 25 and all I need my phone for is to be contactable, my usage is very low, like everybody in my household, and nobody offers plans as good as Vodafone’s for people like me which is why we are all happy Vfone customers.

  9. I tried to quit 3 last year when network performance became non-existent. Three separate attempts and I finally had to be rude to the operator and tell him that I had repeatedly asked to quit, and would he please stop making me offers. I suspect the customer gush is on, just people haven’t got past the point where they are allowed to go.

    • My best friend had the same thing Oliver.

      It took me getting on the phone and being quite rude, saying she had no reception at all at her house after the merger with Vodafone, while Telstra and Optus BOTH did, because he was trying to talk her into continually staying (she struggles with hard sellers).

      I don’t understand this sort of behaviour. What do they think customers are doing? Paying them to simply say they’re with a company while having no service from them??

  10. I got my Samsung Galaxy S3 recently, The speed at my home area is terrible even the 850Mhz network is up and running, I got only 250kbps even H showing on the signal.

    At Botany near airport I got 1 to 2Mbps wtf , I rang Vodafone they told me that the network upgrade is not completed in my area even shown completed on their 850Mhz network upgrade status website.

    My wife iPhone 4s on Telstra get better speed compare to mine, so I am going to call Vodafone and stick up their bum request to break contract with no fee then move to Telstra.

  11. Been with Vodafone since 1995 and have been pretty happy with them apart for a six month period where the service deteriorated and became unusable in some cases. I can say though that for the past five months plus that the service has been fantastic, using speedtest at work (on my phone) I am often getting data speeds two to three times faster than a friend using an iphone 4s on Telstra, faster than another friend using Virgin (Optus) and this is using test sites all over Australia.

    We moved our work phones from Telstra to Optus (this is in Perth) and what a mistake that was, I don’t understand how anyone can use the Optus network and not complain. We are talking 100+ mobile phones out there being used and people having issues, they were eventually changed back to Telstra.

    As for Telstra, they are headed down the same path as Vodafone. Data transfer speeds have slowed substantially and perhaps this is due to the amount of customers they obtained from Vodafone, either way it’s impacted on their network.

  12. Vodafone is just describing their speeds to come the right way and road mapping it transparently as far as I can see. Also 15x current 3G is more like 40Mbps or higher potentially not 15Mbps Renai (unless it’s an average speed maybe). It should never be a numbers war any way. I bet whoever leaked you the internal memo is kicking themselves after the way you’ve inaccurately spun the good news and then tried to make it up to Vodafone at the end (well kinda). Whoever was the leak may reconsider next time I reckon! I’m looking to 3g+ in my area!

    • But see, the right way, the problem is….3G+ was on Telstra 3 YEARS ago….and on Optus (at least on some parts of the network) more than a year ago.

      IT is NOT that Renai is trying to bash Vodafone….they’ve done that to themselves- hence the Vodafail incident.

      3G+ simply isn’t good enough today. They SHOULD have 4G, seeing as they are nearly finished rolling the equipment out now. But they can’t, because first they have to fix the backhaul issue (hence the agreement with Optus) AND the server issues they have.

      It is not painting them in a bad light- it’s painting them in the light they’re in…which happens to be bad….

      I’d also HIGHLY doubt they will produce anywhere NEAR 40Mbps as an average. Even Telstra are reporting maximums under 40Mbps. 15Mbps IS likely to be the average on 4G….but they aren’t rolling out 4G yet and they’re shooting themselves in the foot by delaying it more.

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