Vodafone joins HSDPA foray

Faster connectivity out of the office

Only a few weeks after the high-profile launch of Telstra's NextG mobile broadband network, Vodafone has fired up its own High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) network in Sydney and Melbourne.

One year after its existing 3G mobile network was launched, Vodafone's HSDPA effort promises to bring ubiquitous Internet connectivity to mobile workers with up to four times faster downloads and three times faster uploads.

This means theoretical peak downloads of 1.8Mbps, but in reality typical speeds of 600Kbps to 1.4Mbps can be expected. Upload speeds peak at 384Kbps.

The move to HSDPA was achieved with hardware and software upgrades to existing 3G base stations to deliver the higher transfer speeds.

With only a limited number of HSDPA mobile handsets available to consumers, Vodafone has set its sights firmly on the business market by offering the higher speed for the same cost of its existing data plans.

For $29.95 per month 100MB of data can be downloaded at broadband speed, $49.95 gets you 300MB, and $99.95 1GB. Additional data is charged at 30c per MB across all plans.

Vodafone Australia senior product marketing manager Dave McNaughton said the fundamental behaviours of the network stay the same and business users can access e-mail, Web, VPN, SMS, and the company server while out of the office.

"With the introduction of 3G we saw a huge change in the mobile working habits of customers," McNaughton said. "It untethered their laptop and allowed the same business transactions on the road pretty much as easily as in the office on a fixed link."

Vodafone's new network, built with Nokia technology, is an extension of an agreement signed between the two companies in 2004. Nokia HSDPA is a software upgrade to the Nokia WCDMA networks.

McNaughton said customers are now looking at mobilizing entire service fleets as the experience is "every bit as good" as a fixed line.

While confined to Sydney and Melbourne now, HSDPA will be expanded to the other capitals into 2007.

Accessing the network involves purchasing a PC Card or USB modem - both manufactured by Huawei - and installing the client software which runs on Windows or Mac OS X.

Vodafone's mobile connect software dashboard does dynamic real-time compression of the data, from 2:1 to 6:1 depending on the content, which, according to McNaughton, pays a huge dividend as customers are only charged for compressed data volume.

Other connection methods include putting the PC Card into the Linksys 3G router which acts like a mobile hotspot, routing HSDPA to 802.11 Wi-Fi, and the HSDPA-enabled notebooks from Lenovo and HP.

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