If you didn't understand let me explain...
Vodafone New Zealand offers a 2G network (GSM) that cover a very big footprint. It also offers a 3G network that in some places overlaps with the 2G network, and in some other places goes beyond its boundaries. But the 3G network doesn't seem to have exactly 100% of the 2G network coverage.
Most handsets these days are 2G/3G. It means that if you use a 3G handset with the Vodafone service then at some point it will lose sight of 3G signals and automatically fallback to 2G services.
The transition is automatic and transparent. You shouldn't see any impact - except for mobile data being rocketed back to dial-up speeds while on 2G (as well as some services that only work on 3G such as music downloads, video streaming, etc).
Vodafone says they cover 97% of the areas where New Zealanders live, work, and play. This is not geographical coverage, but where most people are actually using it.
So Vodafone 100% of 97% = 2G + 3G.
Now let's see the Telecom XT Network case. Telecom decided at some stage that it wouldn't be worth investing on 2G. It's an old technology now on the way of museums and deploying it means maintaining two completely different networks.
So they decided to launch a pure 3G mobile network. That's why there's no "fallback" to 2G.
Telecom also claim to have 97% coverage of where New Zealanders live and work.
So Telecom 100% of 97% = 3G.
So all things being equal your Telecom 3G service is equivalent to the Vodafone 2G + 3G service - in terms of "coverage".
Obviously geographical coverage is not the same. The cellsites are built in different places. They face different directions. These companies use different bands (Vodafone uses 2100MHz + 900 MHz, Telecom uses 850 MHz) which means they have different reach in terms of distance and building penetration.
So it's clear that at certain point you might get a Telecom signal while nothing on Vodafone. And vice-versa.
If you need mobile coverage in a certain place and don't get signal from one company or another, then it makes sense to change provider. But changing (or not changing) because one service offers "fallback" is simply not the right thing.
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