Telecommunications experts say that the launch of 4G mobile
technology in New Zealand could spark a price war over mobile data
Earlier, Vodafone announced the launch of 4G, which the telco company claims is up to 10 times faster than standard 3G services, accelerating the time taken to download or stream books, videos and music.
The 4G network is live now for Vodafone customers in parts of Auckland and the network will expand to more suburbs every week. It will be live in parts of Christchurch in May, and parts of Wellington in August/September 2013.
In response to the announcement, Paul Brislen from the Telecommunications Users' Association said that the move should create more competition in the market.
"I think we will start to see a real speed war kicking off amongst the telcos, it's good to see."
"I hope this will spur the other telcos into announcing their plans. Potentially if they can't compete on speed, they'll have to compete on price, which may mean we see a price war eventuate between Telecom and 2Degrees as well, as they compete to offer better value.
"Hopefully, at the end of the day it's good for all of us as customers."
While Computerworld Magazine's Sarah Putt said that it is good to see innovation in the market.
"If I was Telecom, I would definitely be looking at my plans... we need competition with all three networks enabled with 4G."
"It will lower prices and it will provide some sort of innovation, like we've seen today."
First class speed
At the launch, Russell Stanners, CEO of Vodafone New Zealand described 4G as being "first class" in network speed.
"4G is the next step and it's going to get better and better as we go forward," he said.
"For many people, their smartphone has become one of the few items that they can't leave home without. 4G is the network that the best smartphones were made for, meaning you can access all the information and entertainment you want in real time - and connect faster than ever before."
Six 4G-capable devices are available at launch - including iPhone 5, Windows Phone 8X by HTC and Samsung GALAXY Note II 4G version. By the middle of the year, Vodafone will have more than 12 4G capable devices on offer.
Vodafone says there are 65,000 4G capable devices currently in New Zealand. However, to enable the 4G service, users will have to do an upgrade on their device and be on a qualifying payment plan.
The device will switch to 3G speeds when users leave the 4G coverage area.
At the entry level customers can get onto 4G with a SIM plan for $40 a month, which includes 500MB of data with a 4G upgrade.
Smart Data $120 plans and above, with 2GB of data, have 4G included at no additional charge.
"Customers purchasing a 4G $10 add-on have the option to cancel their add-on within 30 days if they are not entirely happy with their 4G experience," Vodafone said.
Vodafone added that they are "committed" to improving phone coverage in rural areas.
4G prepay plans are not yet available.
Rival Telecom kicked off its limited 4G/LTE trial on February 10. Trial areas include part of Auckland's North Shore. Only 100 customers are part of the trial.
Vodafone said they have been working on developing the 4G network with Nokia Siemens since 2010.
Click here for more information and 4G coverage maps.