Vodafone's Auckland mobile network upgrade

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Jan-2013 21:29

Vodafone announced at the start of December they were upgrading 400 cellsites in the Auckland region, and have been updating this on a weekly basis on their website.

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)

Other related posts:
Skinny takes FUD to new heights with Vodafone GSM network shutdown billboards.
Are Air New Zealand about to dump their Premium Economy Spaceseat?
Will the iPhone 6 work in New Zealand?

Comment by ajobbins, on 25-Jan-2013 22:46

You're still a Vodafone fanboi

Comment by wongtop, on 25-Jan-2013 23:01

From what I recall, Vodafone only have 15 MHz (paired) of 900 MHz spectrum.  Do run DC, this means that they will be dedicating 10 MHz to 3G, leaving only 5 MHz for GSM.  Has the GSM traffic declined so much that they are able to survive with only 5 MHz of GSM spectrum, or have they been rolling out more GSM 1800 at the same time?  I would have thought that they would be trying to save their 1800 spectrum for LTE though.

Comment by old3eyes, on 28-Jan-2013 10:06

I was hoping that Vodafone would start to wind down GSM as AT&T is doing in the US but I read somewhere that they are keeping it going until 2020

Comment by Pete, on 28-Jan-2013 11:38

Yes Vodafone will keep its 2G services going for a while - lots of M2M use out there, along with those with "feature" phones

Comment by lyonrouge, on 3-Feb-2013 08:52

Has this upgrade gone ahead as planned? Network seems as bad as ever at my place, or maybe my area wasn't upgraded?

Comment by johnr, on 4-Feb-2013 14:19

lyonrouge where is your area? Still 150 sites to cut over to U900 in the wider Auckland region over the next 4 - 5 weeks, This is covered in the official media release from Vodafone NZ :)

Comment by Jordan, on 4-Feb-2013 17:03

Hello There, No Change in Glen Eden West, Better in building coverage, Bull shit Still have to lock to GSM Only Samsung Galaxy S2

Comment by johnr, on 4-Feb-2013 17:40

Jordan have you read my comment above before posting? look at the official media release from Vodafone NZ Still 150 U900 sites to come online in the next 4 - 5 weeks around Auckland

Comment by Jordan, on 4-Feb-2013 17:50

Jon, Glen Eden West, and Glen Garry Road, Already been done some months ago according to m.vodafone.co.nz/network

Comment by johnr, on 4-Feb-2013 17:55

Does not mean the U900 is live yet

Comment by johnr, on 4-Feb-2013 17:56

the U2100 Dual carrier could have gone live

Comment by Jordan, on 4-Feb-2013 17:58

John, Yes it does, They are going live as soon as they have been upgraded now, Cause after the 28th it's all live as soon as the upgrades are completed.

Comment by johnr, on 4-Feb-2013 18:01

As advised still 150 sites to go live for U900 and a number of them are out West Auckland,

Comment by Jordan, on 4-Feb-2013 18:07

Was any testing required? Also did the cell site pannels need to be replaced for dual band umts or just data cards?

Comment by Jordan, on 4-Feb-2013 19:24

Was any testing required? Also did the cell site pannels need to be replaced for dual band umts or did the data cards just need to be swapped?

Comment by johnr, on 5-Feb-2013 08:52

Hi Jordan U900 site is just going live now in Glen Eden and U2100 was upgraded from single carrier 14.4 to Dual carrier 43Mbps

Comment by Jordan, on 5-Feb-2013 10:11

Hi John, Would that be the site in Glen Eden West, captain scott road, Glen Garry Road, or Ceramco Park Function Centre? Lol

Comment by jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 12:36

Still no change even in our ceder built house as of today.

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 12:52

I meant, Cedar built house. Still very weak 3G along milan drive (Glen Eden West) like it's always been.

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 14:52

I thought people should know, In doing the UMTS 900 vodafone are turning off GPRS, It's not official but it has happened all over Glen Eden, Kelston, works still in New Lynn, I thought it was an issue so logged a ticket but they said it's planned, 2G data is being disabled, The GPRS icon still shows and the it still shows sending and receiving data but webpages don't load at all.

Comment by johnr, on 6-Feb-2013 15:05

Jordan as explained more than once still a few weeks before all U900 sites are live and this includes a number out West Auckland and GPRS is not getting turned off so I have no idea why you are posting this, Can you please not post INFO pulled out of thin air with nothing to back it up and the 2G / GPRS network is going to be around for many years to come

Author's note by sbiddle, on 6-Feb-2013 15:09


Vodafone aren't telling anybody this because it's not happening. GRPS is not being shut down, and infact GSM/GRPS coverage is being expanded as part of the 3G 900 rollout which a number of sites that were 2100 only now having 900 GSM as well.

GSM / GPRS is going to be around for many, many years yet with the hundreds of thousands of GRPS telemetry devices in the marketplace.

The fact you had a GPRS signal indicated GPRS is not being shut down. If it was you wouldn't have GPRS off a site at all. It sounds like an isolated issue as part of the upgrade which is still taking place in those areas.

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 15:30

Why is GPRS in Glen Eden down continuous in Glen Eden for the last 10 days then? I logged a ticket, They told me 2G is no longer getting upgraded, they went on to say it's normal for 2G data to no longer be working as they convert the spectrum over to 3G 900mhz, they said 2G will now only carry 2G voice and text.

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 15:32

They said, ''Please switch your phone to WCDMA/GSM Auto''

Comment by johnr, on 6-Feb-2013 15:52

Jordan please email me the fault ticket number to john (dot) reader (at) vodafone (dot) com and the persons name who advised you this please

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 15:58

Ticket Closed.

Comment by johnr, on 6-Feb-2013 16:07

Does not mean I can't reopen it as above please email me ticket number

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 16:12

Nitin was his name. Mobile Tech Support. I was advised this on the 3rd of Jan

Comment by johnr, on 6-Feb-2013 16:27

I need the ticket number! If I don't have the ticket number I can't follow it up, simple I'm not asking again

Comment by Mr Mayo, on 6-Feb-2013 16:35


Comment by johnr, on 6-Feb-2013 16:37

Now I know why you did not want to email it to me,

Comment by Jordan, on 6-Feb-2013 23:56

I hope we don't have a problem John,

Comment by Jordan, on 8-Feb-2013 13:21

In building has improved a bit in Glen Eden West (3G), still no sites load in glen eden over gprs :)

Comment by Jordan, on 9-Feb-2013 14:24

John, Re Opened ticket myself, thanks for your help!!!!

Comment by Rod, on 4-Mar-2013 13:54

Hi, I have been experiencing really bad 3G speed in Auckland CBD. Usually speed starts getting worse at 11 am until 4. This would suggest the network gets overloaded. This didn't happened last year. It's really annoying since 3G gets unusable during this period. Almost no connectivity. This is also happening to my colleges. And it's not because we are inside a building since the problem is the same outside.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at stevenbiddle@gmail.com