Vodafone New Zealand is to launch a 3G network by the end of next year.
Trials of the new service will begin within six months with a "progressive roll-out within the next 18 months - initially focusing on main, urban and provincial centres", according to the official release.
Vodafone's technology of choice for the service is Wideband CDMA (W-CDMA) which is expected to offer service at around 150-200 Kbit/s and a top theoretical speed of 384 Kbit/s.
In addition, Vodafone plans to upgrade the service at an unspecified later date to include High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), which has average data rates of around 2 Mbit/s for one-way traffic to the end user.
Vodafone says the 3G service will "complement" the existing GSM and GPRS network it has in place today, although that will eventually be phased out in favour of the new network.
"W-CDMA 3G is not a stand-alone technology – it complements 2G. Subscribers can therefore take advantage of the benefits that 3G brings, while also having access to GSM wherever 3G coverage is not available."
Vodafone will sell multi-mode phones that can automatically switch between GSM, GPRS and W-CDMA. Users will be able to keep their existing number and prefix by simply swapping SIM cards from their existing phone to a new one.
Telecom's Go 27 network runs on a related technology, CDMA 1x, and Telecom likes to call it a 3G network. However Go 27 connections typically run at speeds up to 155 Kbit/s.
Internationally, 3G networks have been less than warmly received by customers due in large part to the cost of services. In Australia, Hutchison has rolled out its 3G network, "3", already and has 43,000 customers. Telecom New Zealand has an equity stake in the operation and could introduce Hutchison's technology in New Zealand should it choose to move to a 3G network.