Higher speeds for Vodafone, but low data caps remain

200MB or 1GB caps with 50#/MB charges beyond that

Cellular network operator Vodafone is launching it's HSDPA upgrade today, promising higher speeds for customers who purchase new devices capable of using the enhanced wireless broadband technology.

Vodafone has been vague on what the download speed will be, wavering between 1.8 and 3.6Mbit/s; however, it has now decided on the latter figure, with real-life performance quoted as being between 800kbit/s and 1.4Mbit/s.

The high HSDPA speeds will only be available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Other areas that are covered by Vodafone's 3G service will get 1Mbit/s with upgrades coming in over the next 18 months.

Although Vodafone is pushing the HSDPA 3G as a fixed-line broadband replacement, its data caps are meagre: $29.95 buys a mere 200MB a month, and the most you can use is 1GB for $49.95. Excess usage is billed at 50¢ per MB.

Recognising that the caps are low for a high-speed service, Vodafone offers a "bundle insurance" for an additional $10 per month, in case customers go over their allotted data volumes. This buys an additional 200MB or 1GB, depending on which plan the customer is on.

The above pricing is for customers signing up for two-year contracts. Open term contracts cost $10 more a month and calls are billed on top of the data usage.

A range of new HSDPA capable devices are being launched, including a new USB "Vodem" for $429, a Mobile Connect PCMCIA Class 6 data card for $529 and two Samsung mobile phones for $999 and $1,099 respectively.

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