Vodafone Soups Up HSDPA
Vodafone UK announced today that it will upgrade its high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) network to 7.2 Mbit/s by November and unveiled three devices that are compatible with the new and improved 3G network. (See Vodafone Upgrades HSDPA.)
In June, Vodafone launched an unlimited, all-you-can-eat data package for £25 ($50) per month (with a fair usage limit of 3 Gbytes each month). With the flat-rate tariff and faster network speeds, Vodafone hopes to attract more users onto its 3G network. (See Vodafone Offers Flat Rate and Vodafone Prices Data Roaming.)
The operator says it has more than 300,000 mobile broadband customers in the U.K., predominantly business users, most of whom have HSDPA devices.
"We want to drive the uptake of the proposition. We're trying to make it simple and easy to use," says Nick Parbutt, head of products for enterprise at Vodafone UK.
But the news comes in the wake of 3 's announcement last week of an HSDPA tariff for £10 ($20) per month, limited to 1 Gbyte, which is the cheapest to date for a 3G mobile broadband service. (See 3 Heats Up HSDPA in UK.)
When Vodafone upgrades its HSDPA network, the maximum speed will be 7.2 Mbit/s, but users will typically experience speeds between 1.7 Mbit/s and 5.5 Mbit/s. The operator will also add high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA), which will increase upload speeds from the current 284 kbit/s to 1.4 Mbit/s. The upgrade will initially cover just certain areas of central London and major airports.
The new devices comprise two PC cards and a USB modem and will be available from September 3. On an 18-month contract, the devices will cost £49 ($98). Handsets for the upgraded network will be available sometime next year. Parbutt explains that handsets typically lag behind the availability of data cards by about six to 12 months.
Vodafone isn't the only European operator trying to attract more users onto HSDPA networks. Today, TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN) announced a deal with Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) to ship laptops with an embedded HSDPA modem and TeliaSonera SIM card. (See TeliaSonera Embeds HSDPA.) Vodafone has also been down the embedded device route for HSDPA-enabled laptops and has agreements with Acer Inc. , Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Lenovo Group Ltd. (Hong Kong: 992), but not with much success so far.
"We probably want it to be more successful than it has been," says Parbutt. "Until the embedded modules become ubiquitous in the [laptop] ranges, that's when you'll get more people connected."
Parbutt says that over the next three to five years, embedded HSDPA modules in laptops will be standard.
"More and more customers are interested in embedded," says Parbutt. "But they're interested in waiting for it to be more ubiquitous [across laptop ranges]."
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung