There is certainly a business case for a third-generation mobile network in New Zealand, says Vodafone chief executive Tim Miles.
“Do you think we’d get approval to spend a lot of money [to build the network] with no business case?” he asks.
Miles was responding to comments by Australian telecomms analyst Paul Budde recently that there is no business case for 3G in New Zealand.
Commercial trials of Vodafone’s 3G, wideband CDMA network are due to begin in the new year, Miles says, but he won’t be specific about what applications and services will be offered over it “because I don’t want to signal to the other guy” the company’s plans.
He did confirm that Vodafone is currently selecting “who we’re going to work with re the technology”.
It’s the applications and services that will be offered that make the W-CDMA network not just viable, but necessary, he says.
“We see a huge opportunity for mobile business applications — we have a lot of customers telling us ‘we want to do this or that and we can do a lot more if have 3G’.”
The ability for New Zealand 3G subscribers to roam on to existing and planned 3G networks overseas is another reason to build on here, he says.
“Japan has had commercial [3G] services for a year.”
W-CDMA, a wideband mobile standard, has a top theoretical speed of 384kbit/s, with 150-200kbit/s likely to be the day-to-day availability.
Vodafone may introduce a faster technology, HSPDA (high-speed downlink packet access), which will allow downloads of up to 2Mbit/s but not uploads.
The company will sell multimode handsets that switch seamlessly between GSM, GPRS and W-CDMA.
TelstraClear surprised most in the industry in May when it announced it would seek expressions of interest in building a 3G network in New Zealand.
Siemens, Nokia and Ericsson are on the shortlist, but a final decision on whether the network is built won’t be made until February.
TelstraClear is believed to be in discussions with Telecom about a joint venture to build such a network, with the two carriers entering into an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) agreement.
In May, TelstraClear gave as a reason for building its own 3G network that its present mobile reseller arrangement with Vodafone meant “the intelligence is on Vodafone’s network, not ours”.
TelstraClear spokesman Mathew Bolland also poured scorn on Budde’s contention that there’s no business case for 3G in New Zealand.
“TelstraClear has always said it needs a full service mobile offering. It’s not about a pure mobile play, it’s about providing fixed wireless solutions.”
On the possible co-operation with Telecom, the most efficient way of achieving this offering is to work with other players, sharing the cost of building the underlying network and competing at the service layer, he says.
“Given that we’ve been unable to negotiate a more suitable arrangement with Vodafone, we’ve progressed plans to build a new mobile network.
TelstraClear is not focused on 3G technology but it doesn’t make sense to build old technology, so a 3G network would result.”