Mobile users in New Zealand can now access the faster 4G internet network for the first time.
Vodafone launched the network to its customers this morning and it is now live parts of Auckland.
4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technology and allows faster download and upload speeds to smartphones and tablets.
Chief executive Russell Stanners says customers who start using 4G will notice a difference.
“It’s first class speed, if you use an airline analogy,” he says. “But it’s not just speed, everything just seems better.”
Mr Stanners says people will notice videos start playing faster, and streamed music loading more quickly. Video calling apps such as Skype and Facetime will work well too.
So far it is available in the Auckland CBD and inner suburbs, as well as Manukau City. Other in-between areas like Blockhouse Bay, Howick and Greenhithe have been excluded for now.
“We surveyed where the most users were and that’s where we went first,” Mr Stanners says.
After Auckland, Vodafone will focus on Christchurch then Wellington.
Only the most recent smartphone models are 4G-capable. These include Apple's iPhone 5, Windows Phone 8X by HTC and Samsung GALAXY Note II 4G. The newest models of the iPad and iPad Mini are also compatible.
The 4G network has the potential to offer top speeds of 100mb per second with everyday speeds likely to be at 30mb to 40mb per second.
Top speeds for Vodafone’s 3G network are currently at about 42mb per second, with day to day speeds of around 10mb to 20mb per second.
Vodafone is the first mobile provider to launch 4G in New Zealand, despite other countries like Australia launching it in 2011, and the US and Scandinavia launching in 2010.
Telecom is still in the trialling phase of 4G, while 2degrees claims its network is “4G ready”.
Mr Stanners says Vodafone hopes to eventually be able to roll out 4G to rural customers, if it is successful in bidding on part of the radio spectrum when the Government auctions it off later this year.
“This is absolutely made for rural,” he says. “It really does start to change the game and help rural businesses.”
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen is excited about the launch of 4G in New Zealand.
“I think it’s very good, it’s great to see the phone companies trying to one-up each other.”
He thinks the difference will be most noticeable for tablet users, rather than cellphone users, and will allow more business to be done on the road.
“You want your sales force out on the street, you don’t want to have to wait to get back to the office.”
Most people will have to pay $10 extra a month to get 4G, but it will be included on smartphone business plans. A software upgrade will also be required to access 4G.