8 Oct 2013

Telecom to launch 4G in major cities next month

7:18 am on 8 October 2013

Telecom says it has taken a major step to becoming the leading mobile phone company with the launch date of a free 4G network in the three main cities.

The company will launch its fourth generation network in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on 12 November.

The 4G service will be free to Telecom's prepaid and pay-monthly smartphone customers, enabling them to upload and download data faster than the current 3G service - a move it said was another step towards providing an integrated network of fibre, 3G, 4G and WiFi.

Rival Vodafone launched 4G in Auckland early this year and charges $10 a month.

Telecom Retail chief executive Chris Quin said the new offering, along with the new branding, was aimed at winning more customers.

"Being number one in mobile is a very clear part of our intention and plan, and that's because that's what matters to our customers," Mr Quin said.

"We also know that in younger, more mobile, customers, our position has been weaker in the past and we intend to change that."

The company is a bidder for this month's government auction of spectrum in the 700 megahertz range, which would enable it to build out its 4G network from the major cities.

However, chief operating officer David Havercroft said in the next six months the company would focus on building 4G in the three main cities and there was no date for taking it further.

Demand for data was surging and showing no signs of slowing, Mr Havercroft said.

"There is a straight line going up and up of between 5 and 10% a month of data usage on the mobile network, he said.

"There are some markets in the world that are telling us the rate of growth starts to slow but I think we've got some way to go for that, so we would envisage that for the foreseeable future, both 4G and 3G, we will continue to see that rate of growth of data traffic."

To access 4G, customers will need to be in a coverage area, to own a 4G-capable phone that has been enabled to work on the Telecom mobile network, and to upgrade to a 4G SIM card.

The 4G network has been built by Chinese firm Huawei, with Ericson and Cisco also involved.