The third-generation (3G) mobile phone network that carrier Hutchison shares with Telstra will be upgraded to the HSDPA mobile broadband standard in the first half of next year.
Hutchison's chief executive Kevin Russell outlined the plans in a telephone briefing following the company's annual general meeting this morning.
HSDPA or High-Speed Downlink Packet Access is a protocol allowing advanced mobile phone networks to theoretically provide mobile broadband up to 14.4Mbps, although speeds are initially expected to be much lower.
Russell said the upgrade would "assist with efficient capacity expansion but also provide an enhanced opportunity for new and improved non-voice services".
Such services are likely to include higher speed mobile broadband than the current services Hutchison offers through its "3" branded laptop cards.
Russell declined to reveal the cost of the upgrade, claiming his company was "now in the process of finalising negotiations around the functionality and costs".
"We've actually estimated some costs internally, but until we've finalised those negotiations it's not going to be appropriate to give any numbers out," he said.
The chief executive added there were not expected to be any difficulties with Telstra in the process. Hutchison has since mid-2004 shared the network with Telstra, which now jointly owns and operates the infrastructure under a joint venture agreement.
Decisions on network development are made and funded jointly under the agreement.
Network equipment vendor Ericsson is likely to carry out the work as the company originally build the network and has an extensive managed service agreement with Hutchison.
Ericsson is also currently replacing Telstra's CDMA mobile phone network with a 3G equivalent. That network, which primarily covers different areas than Hutchison's will also incorporate HSDPA technology.
Hutchison internationally appears to be keen on the fledgling HSDPA technology. The company announced in early April it had commissioned vendor NEC to start a HSDPA rollout in Hong Kong, and similar moves are afoot in other countries such as the United Kingdom.
In Australia, Vodafone is also known to have trialled the protocol as it plans to take advantage of the growing 3G network it shares with Optus.