Why a 4G iPhone will spell doom for Vodafone


analysis The local launch of a new Apple iPhone supporting 4G mobile speeds will spell disaster for ailing mobile carrier Vodafone — the only major mobile telco in Australia not to have launched or even started constructing a 4G network to deliver improved speeds to customers.

Australia has seen an almost unprecedented level of announcements over the past few weeks with respect to the new class of fourth generation (4G) mobile infrastructure being constructed in Australia. 4G is a term which in Australia broadly means mobile phone services based on the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard, which allows dramatically improved mobile data speeds over the previous 3G generation of services, used by most Australians.

Firstly, on July 31, the nation’s number two telco Optus revealed it had upgraded some 500 of its mobile towers across Australia to support 4G speeds (the telco’s 4G towers will now do up to 60Mbps). The telco has already launched commercial 4G services to business customers in Sydney, Perth and Newcastle, with a Melbourne launch and a wider consumer push planned shortly.

Secondly, last week Telstra — which had heretofore been the only telco to have launched 4G services locally — returned fire, announcing that it had some 500,000 4G customers following its own launch in May 2011 and would be expanding its 4G network to two-thirds of Australia’s population by mid-2013, with an additional 1,000 4G towers to be deployed to make a total of 2,000.

Over the weekend, I sat down to consider what all of this meant for Australia’s mobile telecommunications ecosystem. And I came to one conclusion: Although 4G growth is already strong in Telstra’s network, it will take the launch of a strongly attractive 4G consumer device to act as a ‘catalyst’ for the rest of the market, especially the non-early adopter mainstream to adopt 4G services.

Australian consumers usually don’t sign up to a new mobile carrier for the network access, after all — they do so to gain access to a hot new mobile phone handset, as they get close to the end of their handset repayment cycle.

Consider this: So far, most of those who have adopted 4G services over Telstra’s network (340,000 of its 500,000 4G customers) have been those using mobile broadband devices. Only 160,000 of Telstra’s 500,000 total have been customers using 4G smartphones.

This has likely been because the smartphones which Telstra has made available over its 4G network have in general been pretty mediocre models. Almost uniformly, they have been previous generation smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S II which have had 4G support hastily added to their chipset, or they have been custom models produced for Telstra with a lot of corners cut — such as HTC’s Velocity 4G or Titan 4G.

The sole world-class 4G handset to have launched on Telstra’s network so far has been HTC’s One XL, which is a very strong model and has likely sold very well, but which hasn’t had as strong a profile in consumers’ minds as Samsung’s Galaxy S III handset, which launched shortly afterwards without 4G speeds. Then, too, it is possible that the simultaneous launch of a number of other models without 4G in the One series (the One X and One S, for example), has clouded demand for the One XL.

Into this mix in the next several months, if the rumors and Apple’s annual iPhone release timing are to be trusted, will come Cupertino’s next iPhone. It seems inconceivable at this point that the carrier would launch a new iPhone model in Australia without support for 4G speeds, and it also seems very likely that the company will launch it with a redesigned form factor, to differentiate it from the previous iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models.

To Telstra and Optus, this launch will be like sweet, sweet honey spread over their already juicy and succulent 4G network infrastructure.

Telstra will instantly use the launch of a new iPhone to (accurately) point out that it has far and away the best 4G network in Australia, and if you want the best experience on your new Apple gadget, you had better pony up for its premium prices. Optus, for its own part, will be congratulating itself for having (just) gotten its 4G network infrastructure to a state where the new iPhone will be usuable on it. To be honest, Optus doesn’t have that much 4G infrastructure, especially compared to Telstra, but it has enough so that travelling to work in Australia’s major CBDs each day will see the satisfying ‘4G’ label in their iPhone’s menu bar throughout most of their work day.

But Vodafone? Well, Vodafone is screwed.

Historically, Vodafone has done fairly well from the launch of new iPhones in Australia. For the last few iPhone launches, the company has typically been able to offer customers deals to upgrade their handsets which have significantly undercut Telstra and slightly undercut Optus; allowing customers to feel that they’re getting a decent price for their new iPhone while still getting access to a mobile network which more or less (sometimes, emphasis on the less).

But this time around, the game is likely to change dramatically.

If Apple, as almost everyone expects at this point, does launch its new iPhone in Australia supporting 4G speeds on the 1800MHz spectrum band which both Telstra and Optus use for their 4G networks, Vodafone will be in the disastrous position of having to tell its customers that it just doesn’t have a 4G network to support the new iPhone’s capabilities.

In fact, with Vodafone recently announcing that it would only be starting construction on its own 4G network in 2013, there exists a possibility that the besieged mobile telco might not realistically be able to offer new iPhone owners 4G speeds for the better part of a year. The next iPhone may even be close to being launched in late 2013 by the time Vodafone has substantial 4G coverage in Australia. By that time, Telstra will have blanketed the nation with 4G speeds and be sitting on top of a new mobile cash pile picking its teeth with hundred dollar bills.

In the meantime, Telstra and Optus will be making hay while the sun shines. There is absolutely no doubt that a huge number (perhaps the majority) of customers who buy a new 4G-supporting iPhone would switch to Telstra’s network when they did so. Functionally, it will be obvious to many people that there will be no point buying a new iPhone with 4G speeds unless they can actually use those 4G speeds. And, as the only other carrier with a 4G network, Optus will soak up most of the rest of the new iPhone customers.

Amongst these customers will be many Vodafone customers — especially those who bought an iPhone 4 in late 2010 and are now looking to upgrade as their contracts come to an end. They will poke their head up above their desk, realise that Vodafone doesn’t have a 4G network, and then instantly switch to either Telstra or Optus in the search for a carrier which can fully support their 4G iPhone. For many of these customers, Optus’ low-cost Virgin Mobile brand will become a replacement for Vodafone — hell, they even use the same red as their marketing colour.

And don’t get me wrong: Telstra and Optus won’t screw this launch up.

Both have learnt their lessons from iPhone launches in the past. In 2008, Optus used moderate discounts and high data quotas to scoop the iPhone pool when the Apple smartphone first launched in Australia, with Vodafone cleaning up much of the rest of the Apple market. But Telstra has since used the strength of its network and marketing clout to lure many of the Apple faithful back into its arms. Optus now has to fight for every Apple customer tooth and claw with Telstra. In this competition, if a 4G iPhone launches in Australia, Vodafone will essentially be bringing a knife to a gun fight.

The loss of a substantial number of its iPhone customers will also be a substantial issue for Vodafone financially. Following its 2010/2011 ‘Vodafail’ series of network disasters, the carrier has largely stopped the customer bleed in terms of customers on post-paid plans, although it is still losing customers hand over fist in the fickle prepaid segment. When you consider the hundreds of millions of dollars it is simultaneously ploughing into its 3G network to bring it up to scratch, there is no doubt that Vodafone is currently gushing financial blood all over its balance sheet continuously.

The launch of a 4G iPhone in Australia will only accelerate that ongoing slow disaster for Vodafone. How many iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S customers does Vodafone currently have? Surely a great deal. And surely many of these customers will very quickly switch to Telstra or Optus when they buy a new iPhone with 4G speeds.

That trend will only accelerate if Apple itself openly uses its marketing clout to blanket the nation with advertisements proclaiming its new iPhone is capable of “4G’ speeds in Australia; as it surely will do. Every launch of an iPhone comes with a substantial new feature which Apple wants to push, which Apple then spends substantial efforts to educate the local population about. And there is every reason to suspect that 4G speeds may be one of the key new benefits to arrive with its latest smartphone opus, a fact every media outlet in existence will trumpet to the world.

In July I wrote the following:

“After the Vodafail episode, Vodafone doubled down on its network and customer service investment. It was a risky bet, but probably worth it – you don’t simply walk away from a multi-billion dollar investment such as a national mobile phone network at the first sign of trouble. But as time goes on and the customer bleed shows no sign of abating at Vodafone, one does have to wonder what timeframe that investment was made on. At what point will its owners put Vodafone up for sale, or substantially restructure it so that it’s no longer a viable competitor to Telstra and Optus? If the customer bleed continues, will it be in a year? Two years? Three? Because I don’t think it will be in five.”

“The next six months to a year may prove to be the decisive time that will set up Vodafone Australia for the next decade. Because if it doesn’t show some positive signs with respect to its customer numbers in that period, the entire industry will be very publicly questioning whether it has a long-term future at all.”

I believe industry analysts and commentators will be watching very closely to see how well Vodafone survives the launch of a 4G iPhone in Australia. Because personally, I suspect such a launch has the potential to force the company to stumble even further to its knees than it already is. How low can Vodafone go? No doubt Telstra and Optus are even now planning to force Vodafone’s face into the dirt by the end of this year.

Image credit: Matt Wakeman, Creative Commons


      • might want to rewrite half the article also…

        Vodafone has been building a 4G network for almost a year, news that even delimiter has carried, as also the news that Optus and Vodafone are working together on their 4G network. This is clearly another Telstra advertisement – getting sick of them on this blog!

        The 500,000 4G customer include the majority that are still on 3G data usb sticks, Telstra call it their 4G network as ‘SOME’ of it is 4G and when it is actually working it’s quite good.

        Vodafone have already announced it will be releasing 4G in early 2012, so this whole story is bogus, and iphone vs windows phone projections for 2012 might be a better more informative article to write as most will be surprised that the industry is tipping WP to beat apple and google by year end. (not that I’m a fanboi, just like to have unbiased, articles without paid ads in them – as this one seems to be)

        • “the industry is tipping WP to beat apple and google by year end”

          What industry is that exactly? Certainly not the mobile one. Everyone has great hopes and expectations for the success of Windows Phone 8, given its natural tie in with Windows 8 release in October. However even with Nokia announcing some sexy new Lumias (with no dates for release and no pricing) Windows has a LONG way to go before it even comes close to Android or iOS. Its just doesnt have the developer or consumer support yet, and its market share is tiny.

          So again which “industry” has suggested that Windows will magically overtake Android or iOS sales by the end of 2012? (4 months away! LOL )

          • @Simon

            Indeed- There have been some analyses that have predicted a Microsoft majority by 2016 in mobile, but certainly not this year….And even 2016 is VERY VERY optimistic if it ever happens at all.

            On a side note, that Nokia 920 I could just lick…..

          • @Simon

            Yeah…that was unfortunate. Hell, with the REAL video showing what it does, there wasn’t a real need to fake it in the first place. It’s still pretty darn good.

          • Exactly! The follow up video taken on the 920 is excellent.

            I think everyone was a bit skeptical after finding out that PureView on the 920 wasn’t going to have anything to do with the awesome 41 megapixel oversampling and lossless zoom of the PureView Pro on the Nokia 808. Although given the size of that thing I knew it would never make it to the Lumia in the same form. I was actually hoping it would be half the size and 21 megapixels. However even though its different tech, I’m happily surprised to see the PureView name is more than a marketing name as the OIS and integrated ‘Cinemagraphs’ , panoramas etc , do seem to make it an excellent quality camera on the 920.

            I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it compares to the camera technology on the iPhone 5, as the iPhone 4S really raised the bar for smartphone picture quality. Hopefully Apple do it again.

          • @Simon

            I’m hoping the 920 really blows me away when we get it here. I’ve been looking for an excuse to go to WP and the old Lumia series just don’t do it for me. But with PureView (I don’t own another camera), wireless charging, NFC (WITH proper payment ability…FINALLY!!) and all the extras, plus Dual-Core for video output in HD (hopefully) this could really tempt me to dump Android on Phone and go WP, while having an Android Tablet (I have a Nexus 7 which I’m in love with right now).

            I’m not an Apple fan, but they definitely have improved the phone and camera phone space. Hopefully their ridiculous patent cases won’t stifle the innovation we’re seeing from competitors.

          • @seven_tech Your last comment was nested so deep I couldn’t reply to it, but regarding Apple stifling innovation with its patent wars, I actually see it Gizmodo’s way – http://gizmodo.com/5938193/apple-winning-the-patent-wars-is-great-for-innovation (I don’t usually like a lot Jesus Diaz’ writing, but I think he’s spot on in this case).

            Nokia have succeed in differentiating their hardware in a way Samsung can only dream of. Having said that, let’s not turn this thread into an Apple/Samsung patent discussion :-)

          • @Simon

            No question. Nokia have done great things for mobiles, even if they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea these days.

            Hopefully there’s more goodies coming! :D

        • @Dawesi

          The 500,000 4G customer include the majority that are still on 3G data usb sticks

          Umm, no, that’s not correct. 360 000 of those 500 000 are on 4G dongles. Not 3G. Of course they switch to 3G outside of 4G areas, but Telstra’s numbers are of 4G dongles, not 3G. Sure, some people will have been sold a 4G dongle OVER a 3G dongle, when they’re, at the moment, likely to use it most in a 3G area. But that’s to be expected.

          This is clearly another Telstra advertisement – getting sick of them on this blog!

          1- This is clearly marked- Analysis. Don’t like it? Don’t read it or agree with it.

          2- Renai reports all sides of the Mobile sector. Including Optus and Vodafone. The fact that Telstra have the superior network is just that- fact. The fact that you don’t like that, nor many other people, doesn’t change that fact.

  1. Renai, you seem very sure that Apple will incorporate 1800 MHz into this year’s iPhone. What are you hearing?

    • I don’t think anyone really heared anything solid. But I think it’s known that Apple is not stupid, they would be cutting out a large section of tech savi mobile users if they don’t release it with 4G. That said, they still have a mass following of people who simply want shiney, they don’t care what it does.

      • The current iPad doesn’t have a 4G chipset compatible with local carriers, and because of that they sold hardly any because everyone bought an Android tablet instead. Wait, what? No, they sold squillions of iPads and no-one cared about 4G.

        As you say, Apple are not stupid – they know people will buy the next iPhone no matter what. IMO it’s a 50/50 chance that the next iPhone will have 4G for the Australian market, I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

        • I agree- we are in wth a chance for 1800Mhz 4G but its really not a sure bet. The thing to watch here isn’t Apple but Qualcomm (since the CDMA iPhone 4, Apple has exclusivly used Qualcomm basebands- prior to that it was exclusivly Infineon). Does a suitible chipset exist yet that supports that band?

          The issue with this is that baseband hardware has a very long lead time, and as its OEM only info in the public domain is sometimes spotty. Info on hardware that would be 5 bands of LTE was in the news recently but that hardware won’t hit phones until next year.

          More generally on the article- it should be noted that the reason Telstra suddenly became popular when the iPhone 4 launched (in iPhone market share) is because prices were substantially improved. You could get an iPhone 4 at launch on Telstra for $57/month ($49 cap, $8 handset repayment) with ok included calls and 500MB of data.

          Now… Telstra is significantly more expensive then that. But conversely, their competitors are in worse shape so it will be interesting.

          • On the underside of my Sierra AirCard 760S (aka, the Telstra Mobile Wi-Fi 4G), it has ‘Qualcomm 4G’ mentioned.

            But of course it doesn’t support the US 700mhz frequency.

          • There is the “7 band LTE” chip from Qualcomm but no-one knows if there was time to incorporate that particular chipset in this iPhone or not. I can’t even find which seven bands it supports other than “three under 1GHz, three above and one super-high 2.5GHz”.

          • I wouldn’t fuss about a LTE iphone, it could happen but it won’t be a quad core phone and many are saying it’ll be a quad core phone, but alas there’s no quad core LTE chip so be a bit hard to come out with one and currently Samsung was the first CPU maker to have a 1.5gig quad core chip for a mobile.

            Main reason why the Samsung Galaxy S 3 is only a duel core in the US market is all Galaxy S 3 are LTE only you can’t get a 3G version of the phone unless you import it and it’s duel core because there’s no quad core LTE chip.

            With Samsung being the first with a quad core CPU for mobile you can pretty much say they’ll be the first with a LTE version and with the loss in the court I highly doubt Apple would even get a chance at such a chip from Samsung now.

            Qualcomm have only just come out with a quad core chip like last month, I don’t think it has hit the production lines as yet that’s how new it is but again it’s a quad core 3G CPU for mobile not a LTE version.

            So it’ll probably be Iphone 6 before you see an apple product be LTE.

          • @Zag

            That’s all very spurious reasoning.

            Why does the next iPhone have to be quad core?? My One XL is dual core and beats the S3 in all benchmarks except video transcoding and some games that have been optimised for quad core. Which is more important, honestly? The ability to crunch HD video editing on a phone….or 4G data speeds?

            If Apple are thinking straight, they’ll go with a Qualcomm chip with integrated 4G for almost the same power as quad core and better battery life with 4G integrated on the chip. Assuming they’ll go with quad core isn’t reasonable. There is a good case to be made for dual core with a separate graphics corr and 4G. I think they realise it would be market suicide to leave adoption of 4G for another 12 months minimum.

    • “Renai, you seem very sure that Apple will incorporate 1800 MHz into this year’s iPhone. What are you hearing?”

      Given the moves Samsung and HTC are making in 4G, and the 4G support we’ve seen from Apple internationally, I would be very surprised if the next iPhone did not support 4G speeds in Australia through the 1800MHz spectrum. In addition, Telstra has been quite successful at pushing this spectrum internationally with other carriers as a 4G standard.

      It would just be crazy for a 4G Galaxy S III to be on the market, but no 4G iPhone. Apple knows this, and as other posters have noted, Apple’s not crazy ;)

      • Apple’s definitely not crazy, but it doesn’t always take logical steps where international markets are concerned. If 1800 MHz LTE were in use in the US or China, we would definitely see it in the new iPhone, but I don’t know whether Australia, South Korea, parts of Europe and the recent go-ahead for a UK rollout are enough for Apple to issue two mobile chips in one year. Millions will buy the new iPhone regardless of its network speed.

      • I follow Apple news and the never-ending rumour mill as closely as possible, and I’m very surprised at your assumption that the next iPhone will definitely support 1800Mhz LTE. Apple has a history of releasing new technology to America first, and the capabilities and features gradually trickle down to other countries. Just look At Siri which is still limited to US for its location based search features. And the new Apple Maps app which has beautiful 3D renderings of American cities and nothing yet in Australia. Not to mention the latest iPad which while LTE capable, has no support for 1800Mhz.

        Remember too that Apple initially released a 2G phone into a 3G market with the first iPhone and it took them up until the iPhone 4, for it to even get CDMA so it would work on Verizon.

        The only thing that might swing LTE in our favour is Apple’s obvious desire to create a “world phone” that works on as many networks as possible. I believe that some of Britain also uses 1800Mhz LTE so this would have to be more of a focus than Australia’s tiny population. However considering the number of frequencies the new chipset would have to support to cover all the international LTE networks, and it seems unlikely that Apple’s first LTE phone will support anything other than 700 (and possibly 1700 and 1900Mhz).

        I really hope I’m wrong and that you are right, given its likely my next phone. However to be honest its not something I’m dying for. Given HSPA+ with Telstra is so much better here than other parts of the world (comparable with what AT&T label as “4G” even if that’s a bogus claim) I’m pretty happy with dual channel HSPA+ at the moment. LTE would certainly be a bonus (particularly when tethering), but it’s not a deciding factor for me at this stage when weighing up specs and features.

    • The Qualcomm chip Apple is likely to use in the next iPhone has more capacity for extra frequencies and considering 1800mhz is used in Europe and Asia, as well as Australia, it’s a nobrainer Apple will include it: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6196/preparing-for-the-iphone-next-rumors-analyzed/3

      It wasn’t on the iPad, as back when the iPad was being developed, such a chip didn’t exist and Apple chose the frequency that matters most to them: the USA’s 700mhz.

      • @Anthony

        This seems most likely chip to me. I think Apple would shooting themselves in the foot, what with the S3 getting 4G here shortly and in Europe, by not launching an 1800mhz LTE iPhone.

        That said, Apple don’t always do what you expect. There is a chance they’ll launch the ‘refresh’ of the iPhone 5 in 2013 with 1800 instead, to allow 4G networks to mature more in this country in the meantime. Let’s face it, it’ll be 6 months before 50% of the population is covered by 2 networks at least.

    • “they said they should have it by the end of the year”

      This conflicts with what they’re telling they’re staff internally — I have seen documentation stating the network will only start to be rolled out from 2013. It should be mid-2013 before Vodafone have any significant 4G presence in Australia … at a conservative estimate.

  2. There are some good point here but it comes down to how many models of the iPhone they want to produce and the chosen SOC as the ease to have simultaneous production lines for the different frequency bands.

    It is said that its not to difficult to support up to 4 bands but the cost rise as your trying to shove more hardware under the hood. With USA 700MHz band being screwed they will need to produce two models for their mother-country anyway. It then lies as to the ease to support the other bands and when. For instance the SIII has not AU supported LTE.

    Apple have a history of using older RAN technologies so I won’t be surprised if they settled for HSPA+ until the iPad came out.

    List of bands that need looking at:
    Band7 : 2.6GHz : aka 2.1GHz for 3G
    Band3: 1.8GHz; Second most widely used band not seen as the most important for long term.
    Band20:800MHz – Europe digital dividend
    Band1: 2.1GHz Japan
    Band41: 2.6GHz TDD
    Band40: 2.3GHz TDD

    USA Bands:
    700MHz’s 3 of them with 2 widely used
    Band4/10: 1.7/2.1

    Take you pick. Will Band 3 be one of them…..
    There would be other…..

  3. If vodaphone can come out with a cheap iphone plan, then I think they will still get a lot of customers. Not everyone will care about whether they have access to 3G or 4G.

    • “Not everyone will care about whether they have access to 3G or 4G.”

      I think once people experience 4G speeds they will become rapid converts. It really is like night and day how different it is.

      • “I think once people experience 4G speeds they will become rapid converts. It really is like night and day how different it is”.

        That really does depend on a person’s usage pattern. Personally I don’t give a hoot because I’m not in the habit of downloading gigabytes of content on my mobile – that’s what my PC is for. And streaming stuff like youtube or iView is already fast enough on the current networks.

        By far, what I care the most about is coverage, signal strength and reliability. I’d take those over 4G any day.

        • To extend, the MNO have need to manage the networks accordingly, not saying they wont stock a 3G iPhone but some may take the brunt as some of the other manufacturers would.

        • “By far, what I care the most about is coverage, signal strength and reliability. I’d take those over 4G any day.”

          Seems Vodaphone is doomed either way then :P

        • ” I’m not in the habit of downloading gigabytes of content on my mobile” this isnt what 4g is for. 4g gives you coverage, signal strength and reliability, which is exactly what you want in a mobile network.

          While streaming youtube and iview works fine in an uncongested 3g environment it falls apart in congested areas. This doesnt happen with 4g (yet). Also remember 4g costs the same to the user (and from what ive heard about the same to the carrier) but its faster, less congested, more reliable and provides better coverage.

        • “what I care the most about is coverage, signal strength and reliability. I’d take those over 4G any day”

          Here’s the interesting thing about 4G — when people migrate to 4G, they migrate off 3G. And that means the 3G networks are more congested. Telcos with strong 4G networks also have strong 3G networks.

        • It’s got nothing to do with downloading lots of data, but rather a case of actually having a usable network. Have you walked through a capital city at lunch and tried to use data on your phone? It’s pot luck. Most of the time, on my old 3G phone, it was useless. I’m on Telstra 4G in Melb CBD now and get fast speed anytime of the day. It means when I’m sitting outside eating my lunch in the sun I can browse, FayceSpace, email etc without having to use a pinch of fairy dust in the hope I get some bandwidth.

          Mobile data is a complimentary technology to fixed broadband. It should be useful when you’re out and about and the 3G network is struggling to be that due to congestion and limited bandwidth.

          Which way Apple is going to go is anyone’s guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull another iPad swifty. Release a non-1800mhz 4G phone, advertise it as 4G, sell a motza and soak up a meaningless fine in 6 months when it gets handed to them. By not releasing it on 1800mhz now it means they can take another bite at their customer base in 18 months with an 1800mhz 4G release. They have a market who will buy a new phone now which lacks features and then buy another new one in 12-18 months when it’s re-released with features it should have had in the first place.

      • 3g is plenty fast enough for me , 4G is too expensive when you consider how quick you can chew up up the very low quotas available .
        Give me reliable 3G with good coverage and I’m happy , when the price drops and the quotas rise then it might be worth a look at.

    • Gotta agree with this for phones. I use 4G daily and while it really is great, I don’t download things much bigger than a few GB so we’re only talking a few seconds either way. That said, I do appreciate the speeds you get on 4G at the edge of coverage zones. 3G is shocking on the fringe. But Vodafone’s customers in general are more interested in the cheapest price and the Vodafone brand in my experience, than the best available.

      However, I note what Renai said about Telstra’s 500 000 4G customers- 340 000 of them are mobile broadband customers. They DO care about speeds very much so. And I think this will definitely be an area Vodafone bleed money over the next year or so. These people a tired of being stuck on congested and barely usable 3G and will be willing to pay extra to get much better. And don’t be fooled- there are MILLIONS of them. Just have look at total mobile broadband subscriptions and you’ll see that I mean…

  4. Whats all this talk about 4G, my phone still spends a lot of time between 2g and 3g here in north
    Ryde on Voda. Not to mention the extended periods of no data connectivity. Let them get that right first. Then we can talk about 4G

    • @Dy4me

      That’s half the problem. They won’t. It’s too expensive. They’ll just roll out 4G to the same locations on the same towers as it’s cheaper overall.

  5. I live in Melbourne. I bailed on Vodafone after 7 years when the Vodafail network fiasco drove me away in 2010. I’m now with Amaysim on the Optus Open Network, and I get 5-6 Mbps on the reg.

    If they come out with a an iPhone plan that works on an improved 850MHz (and use Optus towers to expand their network range, as per their recent announcement), and it is significantly cheaper than Optus or Telstra 4G, then you better believe I’ll take it. These plans come with a handful of GB – who needs 4G speeds to download Telstra’s generous 500MB of data? Any heavy duty data use is going through my DSL connection.

    If 4G was being used to improve audio fidelity, then there’d be a reason. But who is actually utilizing 4G speed ON their mobile?

    • @Adam

      Little bit of confusion in there. 850Mhz is Vodafone’s 3G network. 4G can’t use that frequency in this country as it is used by Vodafone and more widely by Telstra’s NextG network. 1800 MHz is the current frequency used in this country for 4G LTE. 700Mhz will be the next one after the analogue TV surplus auction next year.

      I use 4G on my phone. For videos it’s great. And it makes browsing snappier too. But by and large it’s not enough difference for many people and I understand that. It’ll be the mobile broadband crowd that REALLY benefit from it and VoaFone have many of them….

      • My wife has used my One XL (4G) for tethering her laptop a few times. Like being connected to the office LAN essentially. Brilliant. Still not enough to convince her to leave her old iphone though!
        Best of both worlds I guess…

    • No need – audio quality has already improve significantly with HD Voice on 3G, and a large array of current handsets support it.

    • Eventually Voice over LTE will be implemented (which allows higher than landline quality calls) but it will take a while. Still obviously the network needs to have lte first before implementing VoLTE, seems that telstra will be leading the way here again as they have already implemented WB AMR codec (“HD Voice”) and will be testing VoLTE within the next 12 months

      • Where do you get that information? I saw an article a couple of weeks ago saying that they weren’t even going to look at VoLTE for the next 2 years.

        • VoLTE is not worth it unless the coverage is grater than the 3G coverage, 2015 is the year of L700 for AU and hence when VoLTE will commence.

    • “I’m now with Amaysim on the Optus Open Network, and I get 5-6 Mbps on the reg”.

      Just be careful with Amaysim. You can punch through your quota very easily as they count 1MB per data connection, so if your phone drops out/loses connection several times in just a few seconds, you will be docked a MB each time. Lots of unhappy subscribers because they didn’t read the fine print or didn’t know the connection habits of their smartphone and/or the services it may be using (even when idle).

  6. Why the fuss over whether or not the new iphone will have 4G. The real question is will it have a microSD card?????????

    • I know! I for one won’t even consider a phone without a microSD card. They’re useless without one, completely pointless!

      *hides One XL behind back*….

  7. i had kind of forgotten all about Vodafone. living were i do in regional WA has it’s advantages, but good mobile coverage is not one of them. only recently has optus built or upgraded enough towers to make themselves a viable competitor to Telstra, Vodaphone is more or less a non player though. Perhaps they need to reinvent themselves as a cheap bare bones service… not that i think it would work.

  8. What happens when mobile companies bring out 5g next year ? are carriers expected to upgrade thier networks everytime a mobile phone company brings out a new gimmick ?

    • @Dan

      5G next year????

      5G isn’t likely for at LEAST 5 years if not 10. 4G is not a gimmick. It is a massive upgrade in speed and throughput.

    • There is no 5G. “Tru 4G” should be around about the same time digital dividend is released.

      • There is a reason they call 4G “Long Term Evolution” it is designed to stay around for a while. Moving everything to IP decouples the Access part of the network from the service delivery portion and should make adding future services etc much more internet like while being agnostic of the access part of the network.

        • “4G” or LTE and “True 4G”or LTE-A are different standards, it because of the USA.

  9. Isn’t the Huawei RAN equipment that Vodafone are rolling out to all sites software upgradeable to 4G? In which case, perhaps they’ll surprise everyone and enable it. Even if the backhaul is still useless people will be seeing 4 G on their phones and thinking they are awesome.

    • As long as they have installed LTE cards and cabling is connected to the relevant equipment such as filters etc… which I highly doubt it, If Master_T is kicking around he would be able to inform us better.

  10. I’m just saying.. yeah maybe not next year, but it wouldn’t suprise me if mobile phone companies start spouting the term “5G ready” just for the sales pitch :)

    Anyway 3G vs 4G, your speeds will vary depending on location, towers etc etc i really don’t think many users out there including me will care one way or the other. How much mobile bandwidth does one actually need ?

    When i’m at home or work my phone is connected to WiFi anyway, sure i can see it being very usefull for business usage, but for the ordinary australian ?

    I’m all for high speed internet, i have 100mbit telstra hfc cable at home and couldn’t live without it.

    Anyway i’m just saying why all the doom and gloom for vodafone regarding 4g ? There’s plenty of people out there who don’t care if it’s 3g or 4g.

    I’m with vodafone btw, and have found it to be an excellent service.

  11. How far is 4G away from having a voice standard?? As far as I have seen 4G phones have shocking battery life as it still needs to maintain a 3G/2G connection at the same time for voice calls.

    I doubt Apple will release a 4G iPhone that needs to simultaneously connect to 3G/2G for calls and have shocking battery life… The iPad was OK as it is data only and does not need to voice fall back.

  12. Yet another story where the writer just can’t let go of the NBN “everyone needs more speed no matter what it costs” fallacy. The headline says Vodafone’s dead without a 4G phone. Then hidden down in the story is the admission that Telstra’s 4G network has mainly been utilised by mobile broadband users, not smartphone users. There’s a speed that’s “fast enough”. For a phone 99.9% of people 99.9% of the time couldn’t tell that they were “only” on 3G not 4G. Yes, if Vodafone doesn’t go 4G eventually it will hurt eventually. But in the meantime by not spending billions when LTE technology is new and expensive, instead waiting until the price goes down, it will be able to charge less and by doing that it will pick up a lot of customers.

    For shared bandwidth technology like the mobile system, lots of network bandwidth, ie, being able to achieve something even close to a low theoretical maximum throughput, beats the crap out of having a high theoretical maximum that you can’t get anywhere near because of congestion.

    • “For a phone 99.9% of people 99.9% of the time couldn’t tell that they were “only” on 3G not 4G.”

      Sorry, but I review smartphones professionally, and this just isn’t true. There is a radical difference between the experience of being on 3G and 4G. Latency, throughput, everything. 4G is a huge step up and there is no denying that. People notice.

      • I hope ur right Renai. I’ve only used 4G once on a second rate phone. I hope the experience on the new iPhone is above par. What I would like to see though is better/higher data allowances on the phone plans.

        • @Jasontoheal

          ‘What I would like to see though is better/higher data allowances on the phone plans.’

          This is the whole point of changing to 4G. Data is so expensive on 3G because it is a limited resource and so its price is held artificially high to discourage people from downloading too much and overloading the network.

          You’ll never see tens of GB’s on wireless for similar prices to wired. It is simply too expensive to provision the bandwidth per tower.

  13. You seem to assume that Apple will support anything other than US 4G bands. They’ll call it 4G, of course – but…

    • Not in Australia they won’t (if it doesn’t support Australian frequencies). They have removed the 4G label from the new iPad after the latest ACCC ruling ordered them to do so.

      Also in Australia iOS5 correctly shows 3G on the iPhone 4S, while on AT&T in America it is labelled “4G” on the status bar (even though its using the same HSPA+ technology). So if Apple wanted to pull the “HSPA+ is 4G” trick in Australia they would have already tried. The problem isn’t so much Apple’s fault as the US carriers and their murky definition of 4G in the US. Thankfully we don’t have that problem here.

      • 4S does not even make the HSPA+ in Australia as its 14Mbps not 21Mbps. There standards are low, very low.

      • Actually, the 4G label is used incorrectly here as well. To actually meet the 4G standard a service needs to be capable of 100Mbps throughput – or was it 1Gbit? Either way, no “true” 4G services are available commercially anywhere in the world.

        Use of the term is a bit more forgivable with LTE because (afaik) it’s a data only service, which is the real key change in technology with 4G – but technically Telstra’s 4G still doesn’t meet the standard. It probably will over time, just as 3G data has also seen huge increases (more than ten fold) in throughput over its lifetime. Still, “4G” has become purely a marketing term, it can mean whatever they want it to mean.

        • Sure, I get what you’re saying, but the point is Apple would never label anything 4G in Australia unless it specifically supports our LTE frequencies after the latest ACCC ruling forced their labelling and marketing to comply with our existing standards.

          Nobody in Australia labels HSPA+ as 4G, where as in the US it’s become perfectly acceptable for AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to do so with a range of phones (including the iPhone 4S which is correctly labelled 3G here).

        • @Michael

          Sorry to get pedantic here, but Telstra and Optus’ networks are in fact 4G as defined by the ITU in 2010. Originally, LTE-Advanced and WiMAXX 2 were the only ones considered 4G having moving theoretical limits of 100Mbps and stationary of 1Gbps. But in 2010, they included LTE as 4G citing that any technology which ‘substantially improved throughput for end users compared to previous technologies’ was considered 4G.

          So LTE fell under this category, being that real world 3G HSPA+ gives some 10-12Mbps max and real world 4G gives some 25-40Mbps (an effective doubling or even tripling of speed). However, AT&T has said that HSPA+ is 4G and by any definition that is not true.

  14. I wouldn’t rule vodafone out at this stage. They have upgraded most base stations nationwide (Victoria is still in progress) to accept 2g, 3g and 4g simutaneously. Vodafone is not stuck like optus where they have refarmed half their 900 to 3g. Because vodafone have 850 3g in metro areas (from their hutchinson three merger) they could refarm 50% or more of their existing 900Mhz 2G spectrum to 4g and supplement it with 700Mhz (if indeed they actually participate in the auction) At this stage this looks unlikely so their only option not to be left behind in 4g will be 900Mhz. That is why VF is getting the metro 850 3G network right, after that there is no reason to keep 2g on 900 or if they do they can phase it out since it will improve the bottom line they so desparately need… Orange (Hutchinson) was willing to ditch the superior CDMA network 18 months earlier than they needed to on 850 for an their inferior 3G service on 2100 (three) Of course i and others that switched had much higher bills despite assurances to the contrary!. This is because of the additional revenue streams from their fraudulent Planet 3 walled garden rip off portal and later internet packs. Given this history and when they start talking about returns to the shareholders, do you think they will prioritize low revenue 2g customers with 7+ year old handsets that can only make calls and text messages? After VF can reduce costs on 4g by squeezing more use and capacity into their existing 900 spectrum compared to 2g thereby reducing the wholesale cost with many additional revenue opportunities. I also don’t see much competition with 2G service and handsets for carriers since optus will be using more of their 900 going forward on 3g at least in metro areas where most of the market is. 2g users won’t increase the average revenue per user for Vodafone. Telstra has made the first indications that 2g will disappear in the next few years as most of their wholesalers will migrate to 3g as telstra has also hinted at.. 3g is becoming the new 2g. It is a no brainer if you think by the rules of business. It is then very easy to predict what Vodafone will do… If it is between a choice of losing the network, brand failure and waving the white flag or 900 then i like the CEO would choose 900 every time. 2G is history and we have adequate 3G coverage now to consign the 18 year old (in australia) 2g GSM technology to the dustbin of history. The market will demand it via faster net speeds leaving them little choice.

    • @can

      Um, question….how would Vodafone reform 900Mhz for LTE? Nobody uses that frequency for LTE in the world and as far as I know it isn’t ITU approved for LTE, only 3G?

      • All counties that run GSM900 are looking at re farming the 900MHz band, it was approved under Release 8 or the first LTE release and at least one (Switzerland I think) has deployed in this band. Over time it will be very common.

        There is one chunk of low spectrum to be released after the 700MHz and that is the 15MHz paired or so in the 800MHz exspantion band, some could go to emergency services. Other bands are 1.5GHz but the rest are high.

        • But Switzerland bought 10Mhz in the 900 range for LTE….and it LTE needs 20Mhz….actually, that’s 20Mhz each direction I think, can’t remember.

          I know Telstra trialed 900 for LTE but they’ve committed to 1800 and likely 700. Nobody else in the world uses 900 and there’s no baseband chip made for 900Mhz LTE either AFAIK.

          • Many operators will not have 20MHz continues in the lower bands, look at USA. L900 will become a big piece as 2G becomes obsolete. It does not take much for Qualcomm to incorporate a band in there chipsets. 2.3GHz is included and it would be a lower priority IMO than the 900 band. 900 is in the original LTE release (Release 8) hence it will be supported.

      • We currently have 20mhz spare in 1800mhz. Refarming isnt currently part of the plan. The current 1800mhz is more than adequate to rollout 4G. Refarming has been discussed so far as supplementing 3G not anything else as of yet.

  15. Groan. This article is so spurious and full of wrong. Seriously mate? Your internal leakis a bit useless when you can walk into a Vodafone shop and see the 4G ‘journey’ up on the wall lol

  16. Yeah and they also have good logical reasons as far as I’ve read, as some people smarter than me have posted for why they will release their stuff when it’s timely to do it…get all the facts and explain them your way eh?

    • @cantsleep

      I’m sure they do have good reasoning….but that doesn’t change the fact, as Renai pointed out, that they have said no 4G before 2013….and that will put them almost 12 months behind Telatra and 6 months behind Opt us which is a big BIG gap especially with them already losing customers they have so far and continuing to so.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say they are well behind the 8 ball here with 4G and if could hurt them substantially.

  17. im not sure where and why there are so many articles about if this and if that, who cares about iphone anyways and who cares about 4G, vodafone has announced that their current upgrades will enable them to switch to 3.9G which would be sufficient speeds, the main reason with VF is to get their core network issues right to begin with and once that done that rest can come later, articles like this are really meeeehhh to me.

      • +1. I happen to care about them very much. And contrary to popular belief I am not a sheep or a fanboy. Just someone who likes Apple’s hardware. Bizarre I know.

  18. vodafone will still be my preferable network as they are a glonal company and i am very happy with all their upgrades so far as issues ive had before are mostly gone and speeds have doubled / trippled from what they were already. looking forward to the good times…..

    • “speeds have doubled / trippled from what they were already”

      Average mobile broadband speed on the Vodafone network, by their own admission, is 1Mbps.

      Optus’ 4G network can do 60Mbps.

      I rest my case.

  19. LTE is a standards compliant service, as is WiMax.

    The statement “4G is a term which in Australia broadly means mobile phone services based on the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard,” is incorrect.

    The standard is “IMT-Advanced” and WiMax and LTE are technologies which comply to these standards.

    If you’re going to have an opinion, get the facts right first.

  20. Why do people think the mass market will even be interested in 4G when the plans have 2Gb data caps?

    Nobody is signing up for ADSL2+ with 2Gb data.

    I think i’ll stay with 3G for at least another 2 years. Even my 8Gb/month plan with vodafone would be holding me back on 4G

    • I agree, what are people going to download on thier mobiles anyway ?

      Can anyone give me an example of why someone would need 4g mobile other than youtube ?

      • “Can anyone give me an example of why someone would need 4g mobile other than youtube?”

        Um … it’s not just YouTube. 4G access speeds *everything* up on smartphones. Any type of network access just appears to be instant. Just normal web browsing and emailing is significantly faster. Faster enough that you really notice it in everyday use. “Instant” is the phrase which I use when I describe what it’s like using 4G on a smartphone to do anything related to the Internet at all.

          • With Vodafone’s towers that have been upgraded to 3G+, I can get sub-100ms, even sub-50ms pings.

            Sure it would be convienent for me to download a 3 hour BBC radio show in 1 minute rather than 15 minutes, but that’s the only reason why i’d want 4G.

            Re: media other youtube, when traiditonal media companies can’t see their way past 512kbps streaming – even the ABC won’t go past 1.1mbps for iview – I can’t imagine where you think you’re going to see streaming 720p video in Australia anytime soon, unless it’s to watch a music video or a technology show.

          • @Jason

            No 720 streaming??

            YouTube does 1080 at 8Mbps. Google Play does 720 at 3Mbps. ITunes does 1080 at 5.5Mbps…..would you like me to go on?

            The only reason iview doesn’t do 720 is they are a publicly funded station and don’t have the money to spend upgrading their capacity. Many, many private companies give 5Mbps at 720 or more and even on 3G+ on Vodafone you’d struggle with that. Telstra and Optus maybe, but not Vodafone. Not reliably.

          • I already excepted Youtube in my earlier comments about music videos and technology shows. Most videos on there aren’t >20 minutes

            Google Play doesn’t do any streaming in Australia at this point. If you rent a google play movie it’s downloaded to your device.

            Besides that, none of those you mentioned are traditional media companies doing actual streaming of regular TV shows, like hulu in the US or even netflix.

            Content is what’s holding 4G back in this country, but on the upside i guess people will get their torrents a lot faster.

          • @Jason

            No, you have a choice on Google Play. You can stream OR download. I have a One XL and a Nexus 7.

            I also said did you want me to go on? Quickflix. Bigpond. I can keep going…

            My point is, there are plenty of reasons for the speed of 4G. You may not see them or use them. That’s fine. But many people do and will. Vodafone will not be a choice they currently have in that case.

          • They have other issues to worry about for the next 6 months at least, 4G is pointless if running at EDGE speeds.

      • For me in particular, the difference is really noticeable downloading email attachments (I use my phone primarily for business) and using Google Maps and Navigator.
        I don’t think you can really understand how 4G unleashes the power of a smartphone until you have tried it.

      • @Dan

        Android updates/app updates. There are days where I’ll get 5 or 6 at a time and it can take 4 or 5 minutes to do them all. On 4G it takes about a minute if that. Small thing I know, but it makes a difference. As other people have said too, it’s not just heavy downloads that improve the latency alone makes it much MUCH better for browsing. It’s literally instantaneous for loading web pages.

      • Wifi Hotspot (aka Tethering) = suitable justification alone for having 4G on a phone.

        Even if you don’t need more speed, the telcos have an ever increasing need for more bandwidth per tower and thus need higher-bandwidth (IE, faster) networks like LTE .. so you need to have LTE on your phone because they need it on the tower.

    • Excellent point, actually. If your cap is 2GB, then who cares that your speed is significantly increased? 4G will make things faster to access (and therefore more comfortable and convenient to use), but not really ‘unlock the potential’ since that potential is severely limited by the download cap.

  21. Renai,

    Do you think that the optus / vodafone joint venture would not improve the options for vodafone roaming coverage which would presumably also include 4G coverage.

    My point being that even with the 4G phones being released if VHA are slow to release their own network, why woudl they not be able to re-sell optus 4G whilst they do their build , thus mainting a customer base.

    My personal plan is to wait until phones like the HTC One XL and some versions of the Samsung S3 (LTE) are equivliant spec as the non LTE version.. (One X / Original S3).

    • Do you think that the optus / vodafone joint venture would not improve the options for vodafone roaming coverage which would presumably also include 4G coverage? No

  22. A question to people with LTE phones already: how do you find the battery life of of your particular phone when using LTE compared to HSPA? (be honest :) ). If there’s one thing I continuously read it’s that LTE is a giant battery hog and can make some phones hot to handle rather quickly when streaming video.

    Given the iPhone 4S is just above average when it comes to battery life (and if the leaks are correct the battery is not getting any larger for the new iPhone) I wonder how it will cope with LTE? Apple were rumoured to have skipped LTE last year due to these battery life and heat concerns, so I’m guessing there are now newer smaller LTE chips available that use less power and produce less heat? (and hopefully cover more frequencies).

    There’s no point having LTE if I can’t get through a full day with my phone using it.

    • “A question to people with LTE phones already: how do you find the battery life of of your particular phone when using LTE compared to HSPA?”

      LTE doesn’t seem to suck the battery that much per se, it seems rather that the implementation of a different (and less mature) chipset for the LTE models than for 3G models seems to mean the chipset as a whole is less efficient.

      That is, you’re not going to get better battery life by turning off the LTE component of the phone etc.

      This is just my impression.

      • I dunno Renai. In my experience, the 4G can really suck it down, but the 3G isn’t brilliant either when you’re working it hard. Some people on Whirlpool and XDA have reported turning off 4G Auto mode has saved battery life, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to me per say. I’d say it does use more on 4G….how much though is a bit hard to quantify.

        I think, in general, your comment about immature chipsets with 4G is broadly accurate in my experience. The same as 3G chipsets sucked down the battery in their early iterations.

        It’s a tradeoff as usual for these devices- good battery life or latest and greatest.

  23. This article from The Verge is the first story I’ve come across to indicate the iPhone 5 will support a wide range of LTE frequencies.

    I really hope Australia isn’t left out, but with parts of Europe also using 1800Mhz, there’s now a very good chance the iPhone 5 will support LTE in Australia.

  24. I started reading this article and found a glaring error in the first sentence. Have you heard of the Optus Vodafone Joint Venture? I know for a fact Vodafone are building an 1800 4G network because I’m working on it. Where do you find these people to write articles? It’s a pretty poor analysis.

  25. Well, I’m a vodafone customer and I won’t be getting a new phone until at least the end of 2014, so by that time I’m sure I’ll have lots of good options, especially in terms of smartphones. Maybe another Android smartphone, maybe even a Windows phone. I’ll never buy an apple though.

Comments are closed.