I visited the Vodafone Roadshow in Wellington to have a look on what�s on offer from this mobile operator. If you are not aware, here in New Zealand we have two main players in the mobile space, Vodafone New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand. Both have about 50% (sometimes a bit more or less) of the market and it�s probably the only country in the world where Vodafone is playing in a level field against a CDMA operator.
Traditionally Vodafone has been seem as targeting the consumer and SME markets, since Telecom�s position as incumbent on the landline market places the company in a comfortable position with large corporate clients.
Vodafone is known for launching the hip handsets around here, but in the last 9 months Telecom New Zealand has been very aggressive in their marketing campaign and took the lead in 3G network services with the introduction of CDMA EV-DO (branded as T3G) back in November 2004. They also have attracted lots of youth market with promotions such as $10 for all SMS in a month, and so on.
But Vodafone was working in the background. They have announced their 3G network, based on UMTS (WCDMA, 3GSM, whatever name you know for it) and are planning to have a line of 15 new 3G-capable handsets by Christmas 2005. All those supporting live video calls and their own branded walled garden (some call it a �portal�), the Vodafone live! service.
They had these devices on exhibit during the Vodafone Roadshow, but I was after the new smart devices. They had the HP iPAQ models (sorry, didn�t talk to HP, when they start replying to emails perhaps we can talk), some Nokia models including the Nokia 9300 (which I must admit looks good, but where are the software?), Sony Ericsson (the P910 was there, but this is old news, where is the P990?) and the i-mate range.
The i-mate range is nice. The new i-mate Jasjar Pocket PC Phone Edition (3G, live video calls!) was announced this week, but they also had the i-mate K-Jam Pocket PC Phone Edition (GPRS and EDGE only) and the i-mate SP5 (pictured), a very nice Windows Mobile Smartphone with Wi-Fi and a gorgeous screen! I was told both the K-Jam and SP5 would be available in two to three weeks here. But when is Vodafone sending this to us for review and publication on the site is anyone�s guess (I keep hearing promises but nothing happens).
If you are confused about all these device names and models check our Smart Devices Database (link goes to i-mate filter, but click All Devices to see others).
Not shown during the exhibition, but talked about and on a press release is the upcoming announcement of laptops with built-in GPRS/3G access. Yes, no more cards and other things to install. Good move!
A few IT partners were there exhibiting their services and software, and it was a shame I only had a couple of hours to spare � couldn�t talk to everyone there.
During the show I had a chance to speak to Phil Patel, Vodafone�s Director for Business Market, and to Hamish Switalla (Sales and Marketing Manager). Hamish talked about the new Vodafone Data Channel Programme, which put together a list of 100 IT Integrators to provide services to the industry and target all levels of companies interested in mobility. The program will certify partners in three levels (Premier, Certified and Registered) based on their level of experience and capabilities.
Hamish said the key benefit of this programme will be the ability for businesses to access one-on-one support and advice on mobility from IT specialists and integrators with Vodafone accreditation.
Vodafone New Zealand is the first English-speaking Vodafone operating company to launch this programme, and it will be rolled out soon in Australia and the UK. Resellers will operate through Ingram Micro, which is a global partner.
I had a chance to talk to other people there (how many Hamish do they have working at Vodafone New Zealand? I managed to meet four so far), and met a couple of folks who lurk around the Geekzone forums. Good move guys! Just need more of your participation and perhaps a little more help arranging for our reviews to happen.