Vodafone gets the 3Gs

After two years of corporate tight-lipping and plenty of media guessing, Vodafone's 3G network is finally here. On paper, the UMTS network Vodafone has deployed is slower than Telecom's EV-DO network, with 384kbit/s maximum speed in each direction compared to burstable bitrates of up to 2.4Mbit/s down and 153kbit/s up for Telecom. Note that these are the maximum rates for both networks and only achievable under ideal conditions in a lab.

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- Vodafone gets the 3Gs

- Penguin papers needed

- Oh, the readers…

Vodafone gets the 3Gs

After two years of corporate tight-lipping and plenty of media guessing, Vodafone’s 3G network is finally here. On paper, the UMTS network Vodafone has deployed is slower than Telecom’s EV-DO network, with 384kbit/s maximum speed in each direction compared to burstable bitrates of up to 2.4Mbit/s down and 153kbit/s up for Telecom. Note that these are the maximum rates for both networks and only achievable under ideal conditions in a lab.

A quick demo at Vodafone HQ also showed higher latency or delay than Telecom’s network, hovering around 220ms compared to Telecom’s 120-150ms. It beats the 800ms and higher delays on GPRS of course, and makes interacting with network applications a whole lot more responsive.

Despite the lower nominal speed and higher latency, Vodafone insists that its UMTS network is in fact faster than Telecom’s T3G, thanks to various “optimisations” like compression and lowering image sizes through quality reduction. However, I’m a little dubious about the speed demos done at Vodafone which showed their gear to be faster, because there was no way to tell how much of the data received was fetched from the actual internet sites and how much was cached locally. I would expect that Vodafone does at least some local caching of internet data because it’d be silly not to, as it provides a nice performance boost, especially on high-latency connections.

I’ll see for myself soon, as I have a Nokia 6680 handset to play with for a little while, and hope to get a mobile data card as well for a comparison. [Join the queue –Ed.]

The number of services that Vodafone has piled onto its UMTS network will probably matter more for users than raw speed though. When you have a small, handheld network device with limited input abilities and processing power which can’t always run the applications you want, it’s convenient to have the carrier serve it up for you instead. It also means Vodafone gets to cut sweet deals with various content providers for selling things like video and music clips. These types of end-user services are one area that Telecom hasn’t developed much so far, preferring instead to focus on business data users. Telecom’s “It’s about clearing your email faster” proposition doesn’t look terribly glamorous compared to mobile soap operas and video calls on Vodafone 3G.

Mighty Multinational Vodafone also has the clout in the market to bring in handsets galore, making Telecom’s handset range look, well, anaemic. Likewise, when it comes to roaming abroad or overseas visitors coming to NZ, Vodafone wins the contest hands-down with 31 countries to Telecom’s three.

So, it’s something of a 3G leap-frog by Vodafone, and it’ll be interesting to see what Telecom can do to match its competitor. Price cuts will be one way, but where will Telecom source more handsets and mobile content for its customers? That’ll be the real challenge.

Speaking of mobile content, it was inevitable that “3G porn” would crop up. I’m still struggling with the notion of people paying to gawk at flesh on a tiny little screen – and where would you do that? Actually, don’t tell me. I do know that in countries like Korea, adult content is very popular, placing second or third after music downloads.

Videoconferencing adds a new dimension of prurience and I predict it won’t be long before mainstream media runs stories about teenagers and 3G porn. It will happen, because it happened with PXT/MMS, blogs and instant messaging — basically, any format that allows pictures of any kind. It’s a real problem in the US and elsewhere, but hold that snigger, because it may be someone close to you on the phone.

- Vodafone's 3G network is up and running

- Vodafone NZ 3G

- Telecom T3G Mobile Broadband

Penguin papers needed

September 5 is the cut-off date for submitting papers to the Australian Linux Conference held in Dunedin this year. They don’t have to about Linux either, so get word processors (or troff macros) at the ready, and write.

- Linux papers wanted for Australian Linux Conference

Oh the readers….

Reader Hamish McEwan took umbrage to my calling the internet hierarchical in last week’s FryUp. He’s right, of course. The DNS, with its “roots”-based architecture, was what I meant to refer to.

Jan Söderlund from Sollentuna in Sweden also wrote in, to tell me about his broadband connection. Sollentuna is a small town north of the Swedish capital, Stockholm. Jan gets his broadband from Sollentuna Energi, the local power firm, and has had it since 2001. The installation was pricey at $NZ2,500, according to Jan, but the monthly cost is a low NZ$39. Oh, and there are no data caps, but he does have ten free email accounts and 10MB of webhosting space.

So what does Jan get for that money? Well, just a 100Mbit/s fibre connection to his home. He kindly showed me a TPTest graph that shows the throughput of his connection at 75Mbit/s max, and 53Mbit/s on average for downloads. Upstream, Jan gets 31.3Mbit/s max, and 23.07Mbit/s on average.

Hmm. Thanks Jan. I’m not sure if I really wanted to know this though.

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