First in the line was a HSDPA demo. Their current infrastructure supports 1.8Mbps, but they have plans to launch the service with support for 3.6Mbps. When? I was told September 2006 is the planned release date, but until then things can change.
The demo worked ok for streaming video clips, copying large files and such. It seems it adapts (or shape?) bandwidth based on use. Of course it was nice to see it working when you have a single user on a demo cell site. We still have to wait and see how real life load will affect performance on this environment.
The infrastructure is supplied and supported by Nokia. The main obstacle seems to be the availability of handsets and data cards supporting the new standard.
On this note I asked Phil Patel about fallback. Here in New Zealand UMTS users will fallback to GPRS when coverage is marginal or non-existant - but wouldn't be so nice to have EDGE instead of GPRS? Anyway, Patel tells me the initial plan is to have HSDPA covering the same UMTS footprint at least, and perhaps in the future migrate GPRS sites to UMTS for improved service. Nothing is certain though, except for the HSDPA plans.
It looks like the Linksys 3G Wi-Fi router we reviewed before will work just fine with HSDPA cards, so users will be able to have a faster wireless broadband alternative but just swapping cards (that is, if you already have the router). I have used the router for a month, and it impressed everyone: I was doing some consultancy work and the company didn't have wireless infrastructure, so I just brought my own network access point with me for that period.
Of note are the plans to release laptops with built-in cellular data support. The Lenovo T60 was on show, but Vodafone has plans to release at least other brands such as Acer and HP. Not confirmed yet, but under works are deals with Dell, Fujitsu and Toshiba. we can expect to see the first laptops coming out in the next two months or.
In terms of handsets Vodafone is on a roll. They plan to have up to 10 different Windows Mobile devices by the end of this year. This includes new entrants in the New Zealand market, such as Asus and Benq. I was told they are very keen on the Motorola Q as well, because it is such an appealing form factor, in direct competition with BlackBerry handhelds.
Talking about BlackBerry, I was shown the latest BlackBerry 8700 and I have to agree, it is very fast and it does have nice screen. But so is the Nokia N61. The BlackBerry 8700 is one of the new models based on the Intel xScale processors.
Also talked about was the integration of PBX systems and mobile services, including mobile desk phones. They look exactly like the kind of phone you would expect to find in any office, but without wires. Of course this is a transitional form factor, because the whole ide is to have a single device, and in this case the mobile phone form factor is better suited for the job. PBX functionality is provided at network level.
I was disapointed to find out that unlike Vodafone UK, Vodafone New Zealand is not planning to directly provide a push e-mail service based on Microsoft Exchange and Windows Mobile 5.0. Instead, clients who do not have a Microsoft Exchange server will be referred to a parner for a hosted solution. One of the partners is Auckland-based ICONZ for example.
On fixed and mobile convergence, the plan of having mobile phones receiving calls as local numbers (similar to what Vodagone Germany is doing) is still under work, pending some government regulations. As far as they are concerned they would launch this service pretty soon, but alas this will take sometime. The idea is to have a Vodafone number that would be treated as a local phone number when within a certain area (cell site coverage). Of course the main opposition to this idea comes from Telecom New Zealand.
I also asked about live TV. With the recent announcement of live streaming of Prime News it would be interesting to see if any plans of a full live TV channel is in the plans. Of course I asked about satellite broadcast, since streaming over a packet network is not the most effective way. According to Patel this is something that could be looked at, but nothing in the near future - or at least this year.
Overall Vodafone New Zealand showed an interesting and consistent approach to a variety of mobile services, but the most concrete action with most impact is certainly the new 1GB traffic plan for $49/month. For almost everything else we will have to wait a few months and see.
Other related posts:
Microsoft Ignite New Zealand, Microsoft Surface Studio
Geekzone data analytics with Power BI
Now with more fibre
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