news National mobile carrier Vodafone has issued something of a public challenge to rivals Telstra and Optus, claiming that a clutch of recent speed tests had comprehensively shown its fledgling 4G network was the fastest such infrastructure in the major capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Yesterday Telstra held a media event to announce a massive expansion of its 4G network. The telco plans to deploy a further 1,500 4G towers around Australia by the end of this year, adding to its existing 2,000 towers. And the telco also noted that it had acquired extra contiguous spectrum blocks in some cities, which may allow it to catch up to Vodafone.
In April, Vodafone had publicly claimed that its long-delayed 4G network — launched a year after Optus’ network and two years after Telstra’s — would deliver Australia’s fastest 4G speeds, due to initial spectrum advantages over Telstra and Optus. However, the telco’s 4G infrastructure is known to be much less widespread than that of either Telstra or Optus.
In a statement released this morning, Vodafone noted that Internet metrics firm Ookla had recently conducted speed tests by thousands of Samsung and HTC smartphone users in the first week of July.
“Vodafone customers averaged a download speed of 48Mbps across parts of Sydney, ahead of Telstra and Optus, both of which had an average download speed of 26Mbps,” the telco wrote. “Similarly, in Melbourne, Vodafone was well ahead of the competition, with an average data speed of 41Mbps, compared to Telstra with an average of 30Mbps and Optus with 23Mbps.”
“Vodafone also offers the most competitive $60 plan of the big three providers on the market for the hottest 4G devices: the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 5 and HTC One.”
The company’s chief marketing officer Kim Clarke said the telco was “proud to be able to offer our 4G customers in Sydney and Melbourne the fastest data speeds in town at an affordable price”. “We only launched our brand-new 4G network last month so customers can expect our coverage to grow; in fact by the end of 2013 we plan to triple the number of network sites from launch,” Clarke added. “Our network is custom-built for fast data speeds and Vodafone has always had a reputation for offering competitive pricing.”
The Sydney and Melbourne speed test results, according to Vodafone, reflected seven-day average results gathered on week commencing 1st July from Ookla’s Speedtest app. Reference data was pulled from 2,933 speedtests on Android devices connected to Vodafone 4G. Based on Ookla speedtests, the company said, the Vodafone 4G network offers average speeds of 2-60Mbps on Android handsets.
The Ookla results appear to mirror early tests of Vodafone’s network conducted by journalists in the weeks after the network launched in June. Reckoner reported about Melbourne coverage (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“Telstra was the most consistent, with decent speeds everywhere. Vodafone had a few bad patches where speeds and latency were awful. So even though Vodafone has a higher average speed, it crapped out in a few places, which was countered by the significantly faster speeds during peak times over Telstra & Optus.”
“These speeds are frankly insane, easily beating the highest speeds I’ve reached on Telstra’s 4G network, and my own home ADSL connection … If Vodafone can maintain these speeds and this reliability, then I’ll be seriously considering switching when my contract ends.”
The results which Vodafone has sourced through Ookla ring pretty true to me. I’ve seen quite a few tests of the company’s 4G network, and it does indeed appear as though it is theoretically a deal faster than the rival 4G networks of Telstra and Optus, courtesy of Vodafone’s much-hyped spectrum advantages.
Of course, there are some massive caveats here. The first one is obviously that Vodafone’s network only launched last week to its mass consumer base, and so there are obviously far less people using it than are using Telstra’s 4G network, which has in excess of two million customers, and Optus’ 4G network, which has around one million. Right now, there simply is no congestion on Vodafone’s 4G network; because there are no customers.
Secondly, it’s also true that speed only matters if you’re actually in an area where you can get it. I have absolutely no doubt that while Vodafone has much of its 4G infrastructure in critical areas such as the Sydney CBD and public transport networks, it won’t have 4G everywhere. On the other hand, I’m increasingly finding it hard to find places in Sydney where Telstra doesn’t have 4G coverage, and Optus isn’t too far behind. Sure, Vodafone might have a speedy network, but when it comes to most people, they will no doubt prefer a network that is actually available wherever they want it — and not only in limited areas.
Having said all this, it’s really great to see Vodafone getting itself up off the ground in terms of the technical capabilities of its network. For far too long, Vodafone hasn’t even been able to keep up with Telstra and Optus, let along surpass them. I’m sure its theoretical 4G speed advantage won’t last long and that Telstra and Optus will shortly catch up — either that, or Vodafone’s 4G network will get congested and slow down. However, it’s good to see the big V re-emerge as something of a challenger. It would be a sad day indeed for Australia’s mobile competition landscape if it left the fray entirely, which is how it has looked like things are going for a long time now.
Update: In response to Vodafone’s speed claims, we received the following comment from Telstra:
You’ll remember at yesterday’s [media] briefing, [Telstra chief operations officer Brendon Riley] was asked “Is Vodafone faster?”. His response was: “We have the fastest national 4G network.”
Sydney and Melbourne are great cities but our customers know that a great network depends on three things: More coverage – we have more than double the square kilometres across our 3G and 4G networks than any other network; Fewer dead spots – calls on the Telstra Mobile Network are less likely to drop out; and a more reliable speed experience with fewer dropped calls and a fast and reliable browsing experience.
We have all three in many more places than just Sydney and Melbourne. This means when our customers actually want to leave the city they don’t have to leave their 4G service at home.
Image credit: Vodafone