Back in 2010, my iPad connected to the internet via a Vodafone SIM card. Well, it did… sometimes. In certain areas the data would flow freely, but almost any area with a few people around, I’d see full bars in my menu, but no data connection. This was at the height of the infamous “Vodafail” network crunch. After months of frustration, I gave up and switched to Telstra. My iPad stayed on Telstra until just a few months ago.
I switched back to Vodafone in late April for my iPad. I figured—I’m using Telstra for my personal phone, Optus for my work phone, so I may as well give Vodafone a chance on the iPad to see whether their network had improved. Three years is a long time in the mobile game, and Vodafone seemed to be doing all the right things to improve their network infrastructure. The results were impressive.
Want to know more? Check out Anthony’s in-depth feature on the history and trials of Vodafone, and his own test results in Melbourne, including an interactive stats map!
On my recent trip to Melbourne, my Telstra-bound iPhone would grind to a halt in the CBD, whilst the Vodafone iPad was happy to download podcasts without issue, and even stream episodes of Breaking Bad from my media centre back home. Central Station in Sydney can test the network of any carrier, and here my Vodafone iPad has consistently been the best at holding a connection.
So—at least where data is concerned—Vodafone has been rock solid over the last two months. As reliable as Telstra, but just unable to match their 4G speeds. Until last week.
Last Friday, Vodafone gave me early access to their 4G network, and I’ve been running tests ever since.
The first speed test I performed gave me 70Mbps down and 35Mbps up. Every test since then (performed throughout the Sydney CBD, the Inner West of Sydney, and around UNSW) gave me 24Mbps down at its slowest, the highest download speeds I’ve reached are 90Mbps. These speeds are frankly insane, easily beating the highest speeds I’ve reached on Telstra’s 4G network, and my own home ADSL connection.
“In a word? Impressive.”
Of course, speed counts for nothing if the data connection isn’t reliable. I’d already felt the Vodafone connection in my iPad was pretty damn reliable, but now I was using a Vodafone sim in a phone (the ridiculously gorgeous HTC One) I was able to really test the network.
I switched off WiFi and began using the One as my primary internet device. My workplace (UNSW) is small, highly dense area, with 30,000-50,000 staff and students on campus at any one time. The campus is full of hills and tall buildings blocking mobile towers; it’s punishment for any network. My Telstra iPhone has been stuck on a EDGE connection pretty much every day for the last six months. Optus is fine on Upper Campus, but falls away in Lower Campus. However, the Vodafone-powered One didn’t miss a beat. Literally. For days I streamed music via Pandora and Google Music, while tweeting, emailing, browsing and doing the odd bit of work — the little guy just kept on playing.
Similarly, I took the One for a walk from Central station, via Darling Harbour, down to Circular Quay during one packed night of the Sydney Vivid Festival.
I was streaming Pandora non-stop, and just for fun was running the Speedtest.net app every few minutes, downloading apps, auto-uploading pictures to Dropbox, etc, and the network was absolutely fine.
Of course, it won’t be quite so easy to maintain such impressive speeds once 4G is rolled out to all Vodafone customers, but I’m confident the network will be able to handle it. 30,000 customers joined the 4G network on Wednesday, and so far I haven’t noticed any dip in speed. I can really only vouch for the areas I’ve tested, from Dulwich Hill to Randwick and everywhere in between.
If Vodafone can maintain these speeds and this reliability, then I’ll be seriously considering switching when my contract ends. It’s incredibly important for the Australian Telco industry to have a viable third competitor, to keep the bastards honest.