Vodafone hush on reach of new network

Vodafone is aiming for a launch in the middle of next year of a mobile network with a top data speed of 384Kbit/s.

It's all go for Vodafone's 3G wideband CDMA network in New Zealand and Australia, with Nokia having been confirmed as the successful bidder to build the network.

However, Jeni Mundy, the carrier's New Zealand technology director, was coy when speaking to Computerworld yesterday about how far the service would extend and by when.

"Our initial target is [to launch in] mid-2005 and we'll be starting in the population centres.

"Where we go from there will be dictated by a number of factors including customer demand, the services we need to roll out etc.

"We'll be reviewing it regularly."

The technology behind the network, wideband CDMA, has a theoretical maximum speed of 384Kbit/s and should offer real speeds of 150Kbit/s to 200Kbit/s.

Mundy says with other Vodafone networks around the world choosing W-CDMA, roaming will be easier and a clear path for Vodafone NZ has been laid out.

Vodafone's confirmation that it is going ahead with an Australasian 3G rollout raises questions about TelstraClear's plans for such a network, but when asked what TelstraClear's plans mean for Vodafone, Mundy said "you'd have to ask TelstraClear that -- it's up to them".

She said Vodafone and TelstraClear remain close partners in New Zealand, with TelstraClear reselling Vodafone's mobile services.

Australian telecomms analyst Paul Budde has questioned the wisdom of potentially having two 3G networks in New Zealand. TelstraClear is yet to select a vendor to build the network.

Of Vodafone's network, Mundy says Nokia was selected on the basis of cost, with all four finalist bidders proving capable of delivering technically.

The other contenders were Ericsson, Nortel Networks and a joint Siemens-NEC bid.

Nokia won the contract both for New Zealand and Australia and was the incumbent in New Zealand, having built Vodafone's GSM and GPRS networks.

In Australia, Nokia will be displacing Ericsson, but Ericsson will continue to maintain the GPRS platform across the Tasman and Mundy says Ericsson provides other services in New Zealand, so the relationship between it and Vodafone will remain close.

Mundy says there will be two separate networks built in New Zealand and Australia, scotching speculation prior to the announcement that there may have been one network for both countries, but says the fact Nokia was selected as a common vendor indicates there is potential for closer alignment of the networks in the future.

"There's the opportunity for trans-Tasman applications."

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