Vodafone Australia to launch 3G in October

Vodafone today announced its third-generation (3G) network would be commercially launched in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this October with other capital cities to follow in 2006.

Jeremy Roche
Hi, I look after product development for CBS Interactive in Sydney - which lets me develop a range of websites including CNET Australia, TV.com and ZDNet Australia.
Jeremy Roche
3 min read
Vodafone Australia 3GVodafone today announced its third-generation (3G) network would be commercially launched in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this October -- rolling out to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in early 2006.

The multinational mobile phone operator also unveiled five 3G handsets that will be available at launch, including the Motorola V1050 (exclusive to Vodafone), the Sony Ericsson V800i, the Nokia 6680 and the Samsung Z500. The fifth handset will be a Sharp phone, although Vodafone couldn't disclose the model number other than to say it is the successor to the Sharp 902.

Features of its 3G service will include video calling, video messaging, full-track music downloads, music videos, movie trailers, mobile TV episodes called "mobisodes", games and live news.

Vodafone partnered with Optus in November last year to establish a AU$700 million alliance to develop and operate a national 3G radio network, which is expected to roll out to over 2,000 base stations by March 2007.

Vodafone's 3G services portal page, which it calls "live!", will be updated three or four times per day and will contain a search bar at the bottom for customers to quickly find content, according to the company. To alleviate customer concerns over the often hidden costs involved with browsing mobile phone portals, users will only be charged for content downloaded -- not general browsing of Vodafone live!.

"We've abolished those charges in the same way that you wouldn't you expect to charge customers to look around a Sanity music store, General Pants Co., or David Jones," general manager of mass markets Richard Sherwood said at a press conference in Sydney.

The streaming live news service is to be provided by Sky News Australia, which will also provide news reports as video downloads through the live! 3G portal.

"If it's a breaking news stories, like the London bombings for example, customers can watch it live on their mobile phones just as they would at home in front of the television," Sherwood said.

In conjunction with Twentieth Century Fox, Vodafone will host made-for-mobile TV episodes called "mobisodes". A spin-off of the popular TV show 24, called 24 Conspiracy, will be the first mobisode promoted at launch. In this case, users will be able to download the series via 24 individual one-minute episodes, rather than the 24 one-hour episodes that fans of the TV show are accustomed to.

While no local sports content partners could be confirmed, Vodafone stated that up to the minute sports highlights and results will be available in October. The service will also provide access to over 180 games including classics such as Pacman, Tetris and Lemmings as well as recent titles such as EA Sports Tiger Woods Golf 2005 and Batman Begins.

On its music channel, Vodafone claims customers will be able to download full-length songs in stereo sound from a library of over 500,000 tracks. Music tracks are stored on the handset as MP4 files, whereas music videos are in the 3GP format. When a customer downloads music content, a record of the purchase is stored on the handset and on Vodafone's customer database as proof of purchase. The company claims this allows its 3G customers to delete and re-install purchased music content as many times as they like without additional charges.

According to Vodafone spokesperson Greg Spears, it is possible to transfer the MP4 contents of a handset's memory card to a laptop, desktop PC or CD for storage, and then re-install the song on the mobile at a later date.

"However, there is an embedded DRM object within the track, which prevents it from being played on any device other than the mobile handset to which it was originally downloaded," Spears said.

For business customers, Vodafone plans to offer a 3G version of Vodafone Mobile Connect, a data card that will connect laptops to the Internet at speeds up to 384kbps.

Pricing on handsets, bundles and downloads will be announced closer to the launch in October, according to the company.

Vodafone 3G trials are currently underway with approximately 180 consumer and 40 business customers in Sydney, according to a Vodafone spokesperson.

Telstra is also currently trialling its 3G service, which it expects to launch commercially by the end of the year. The telecommunications giant last year signed a AU$450 million deal with Hutchison 3G Australia, which operates under the 3 mobile brand, to share and develop its existing third generation network.