Before this "war" between the two bigger telcos in the market, TelstraClear indicated that they were interested in this area too. Last May 2003 a RFI for network suppliers was sent out, and last July we had news that TelstraClear could be interested in creating a 3G network - but only for Auckland, while roaming on Vodafone's own network. This is easy to understand, since the New Zealand regulations require local operators to allow roaming on their networks, if the incoming operator has a certain participation in the networks.
The situation in New Zealand is interesting: Vodafone (GSM) has a little bit more than 51% of the mobile market, while incumbent Telecom New Zealand (CDMA) hold a little less than 50%. TelstraClear does not have its own network, but sells its services for business (including own mobile phone prefix) using Vodafone network infrastructure.
TelstraClear is doing a series of meetings with customers in Auckland and Wellington, receiving information and giving ideas on how to use 3G in a business environment. The idea is not to show a walled-garden or a lifestyle application, but to expand the vision of how to apply this technology.
The environment setup is an actual 3G network, with equipment supplied by Ericsson. A station was located in the same building we had our meeting, and another station is currently in Auckland. The demo ran smoothly, unlike some other media reports. In our case we had a pair of LG mobile phones, with mobile video calls capability, which worked quite well. We also had a laptop connected via Bluetooth to a 3G mobile phone.
The laptop connection was actually quite impressive. A demo video streaming from their servers was sent down at around 350kbps and played without hiccups. A couple of sites we visited downloaded even faster than I can have at home (and I'm using a cable modem).
Of course, we discussed the merits of actual bandwidth and the standard. A network must offer a certain bandwidth level to be called 3G. While moving the terminal must be able to connect at 384kbps, but while fixed the network should support bursts of up to 2mbps. What we saw today wasn't the maximum speed, but of course the operator can throttle this and control how much each application will use, by means of QoS settings. But for a start that was fast enough for me thanks.
TelstraClear said they are planning and working to have a 3G network in New Zealand (without much talk about actual coverage), and the posters around the room were all about 3GSM (new name for WCDMA), but they're still in the RFP stage. It may be some time before we see the actual network out there in public. From previous experiences I've seen the huge integration exercise required to implement a mobile network. Equipments are not all. We have to consider provisioning, charging, billing, content (collection, storage, distribution, charging), handset management and more.
Our host told us to expect their 3G network to be operational in a 18 to 24 months timeframe.