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Vodafone begins HSDPA trials

Vodafone today announced that it will launch an upgrade to its network by the end of the year that will allow customers in Sydney and Melbourne to download at speeds up to 1.8Mbps.

Vodafone today announced that it will launch an upgrade to its network by the end of the year that will allow customers in Sydney and Melbourne to download at speeds up to 1.8Mbps, up from its current 384kbps limit. Upload speeds are also said to increase from 184kbps to 384kbps.

Forty Vodafone Mobile Connect subscribers in Sydney's Lower North Shore today began trialling the 3G upgrade known as HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access).

Although Vodafone's spokesperson Greg Spears wouldn't be specific on timeframes for launching HSDPA in other Australian cities, he told us the upgrade would follow its existing 3G footprint, which includes Canberra, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Perth and Adelaide.

While Huawei E620 PC cards are being used for the Vodafone trials, laptop manufacturers are also getting behind HSDPA, with Acer, Dell, Dialogue, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP Compaq, Lenovo and Panasonic all having notebooks that support the cellular technology.

Vodafone, which shares its 3G network with Optus in Australia, is not the only telecommunications operator to announce plans for HSDPA. Hutchison in July said that it hopes to provide download speeds up to 3.6Mbps by March next year. Telstra is also looking at deploying HSDPA early next year.

According to Spears, Vodafone will be focusing primarily on the laptop space this year and the doesn't plan to launch any specific HSDPA handsets on the network before 2007.

"It very much depends on when the manufacturers release handsets into the market locally. Pundits are predicting early 2007... so the focus will very much be on the data card side at launch," Spears said.

At a briefing on the Z400 slider phone, Samsung Australia's general manager of telecommunications Josh Delgado told CNET.com.au that the company has plenty of HSDPA devices ready, although none were currently available. The model he thought would most likely be released in Australia first is the Z560 flip phone, which has a 2-megapixel camera and is capable of download speeds of up to 1.8Mbps. Other HSDPA handsets mentioned by Delgado included the ZX20 and the ZV50, which is a Vodafone-exclusive handset available overseas.

Motorola has also announced the RAZR MAXX will support HSDPA in the US, but plans for the Australian model are unclear.

Do you really need the extra bandwidth HSDPA provides for your on-the-move applications? Or do current 3G speeds suffice? Leave your comments below.