These upgrades are now complete and the upgraded sites go live this weekend. You're probably now wondering - what is the upgrade?
Vodafone have upgraded roughly 400 sites to deliver a 900Mhz Dual Carrier 43.2Mbps 3G network across the entire Auckland region. Vodafone have used the 900Mhz band to deliver 3G coverage in rural areas of New Zealand for the last 3 years, but in the big cities, up until now, only the 2100Mhz band had been used for 3G. Why you ask? Because when Vodafone deployed their 3G network in 2005 the 2100Mhz band was the only frequency band ratified for 3G services globally. It wasn't until the 900MHz band was ratified that Vodafone were able to use the 900MHz band for 3G services, and they were one of the first networks in the world to start using the 900Mhz 3G band in 2008.
As many of you will know, signal propagation of the 2100MHz band isn't great, which has meant that inbuilding coverage on this band has always been sub optimal. 900Mhz 3G will mean that their 3G coverage will be significantly better. As the new 900MHz 3G network will all be Dual Carrier 43.2Mbps, it will add significant capacity to their their network of existing 2100MHz 3G sites, many of which are already Dual, Triple, or in some cases, Quad carrier.
This upgrade also means Vodafone instantly have a huge network advantage over Telecom. While Telecom already use the 850Mhz band for their mobile network nationwide, Vodafone have had the downside that they needed considerably more cellsites than Telecom to deploy their 2100MHz 3G network. This downside has now turned into a massive bonus for Vodafone - because the vast majority of these sites now have 900MHz 3G, Vodafone have around double the number of cellsites Auckland region using the 900Mhz band than what Telecom do using 850Mhz. This should offer Vodafone a significant inbuilding coverage advantage over Telecom.
To take advantage of the 900MHz 3G network you will need a handset that supports this band. Virtually every 3G handset sold by Vodafone or 2degrees over the last 3 or so years supports this band. Don't confuse 900Mhz with 900MHz GSM though - the 900MHz GSM network still continues to operate as usual, and a phone that doesn't mention 900Mhz 3G support in the specs, and only 900Mhz GSM isn't going to be able to benefit from this upgrade.
If you're a Vodafone user it would be interesting to hear your feedback after the upgrade goes live this weekend.
(And just for the record before somebody accuses me of being a Vodafone fanboi, I don't work, and have never worked for Vodafone)
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