Vodafone aims to have a new packet-based network backbone in place by Christmas and, if things go according to plan, carrying live traffic by March.
Migration will begin in February and all traffic will be on the network a month later, predicts Vodafone engineering general manager Jeni Mundy.
Mundy says "stringent testing" of the network, announced last week, will be carried out before traffic goes on the network "and there will also be in-depth staff training".
The network, to be powered by gear from Nortel Networks, will connect Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and be ATM-based. It is a significant step in Vodafone's move to 3G, Mundy says. "GPRS [Vodafone's next technology upgrade] is already in our network and the packet backbone network will enhance our transmission capability and give us some improved flexibility."
The Nortel technology, based on the company's Passport 15000 multiservice switches, can be either ATM or IP-based. Vodafone went for the ATM option initially, Mundy says, "because ATM is the best solution at the moment for our needs, but the equipment allows the possibility in the future for us to run ATM or IP -- it's part of the future-proofing of our technology."
Nortel NZ managing director Rob Spray says "standards for 3G networks, as far as open standards go, call for ATM, but 3G doesn't have a standards release for IP". He says all 3G networks are being built on ATM, with the capability to move to IP.
Nortel was chosen for the $6.8 million contract on the basis of service as well as technology and is the first major collaboration between the two companies in New Zealand, Mundy says, though Vodafone and Nortel have a close relationship in many other countries.