Vodafone NZ has switched on its 5G service at 100 sites in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown last year making it the first of the three big phone companies to offer the faster new technology to its mobile users.
The carrier also has 20 5G “cows” (cell sites on wheels) that will be deployed to holiday hotspots and events over the summer. All Vodafone plans are now 5G-enabled for free – although a $10 premium will be charged for the service from June.
Vodafone does recommend an unlimited data plan or one with a high data cap – because 5G’s ability to download a high-def movie in seconds also means a modest monthly data limit can be obliterated in moments.
- To access 5G from 1 July 2020, you will need to purchase a 5G add-on for $10 per connection per month including GST (or when your Prepay bundle renews).
- By 2025 5G will be available in 90% of places where New Zealanders live, work and play. In addition to this, Vodafone is also upgrading 4G cell sites to 4.5G throughout the country.
- A 5G enabled/ 5G ready plan is any current 4G capable mobile plan, if you signed up to your plan in the last 2 years, then your plan is 5G enabled, or 5G ready. To access the benefits of 5G you need to be on a 5G ready mobile plan, with a 5G phone from Vodafone, in a 5G coverage area.
- At launch, speeds will range between 150-200Mbps on average and it is likely you will use more data on a 5G connection. If you are on a capped plan, you need to upgrade to a plan with unlimited data, so that you don’t run out of data.
- As part of the 5G ecosystem rollout, Vodafone will be integrating eSIM capability for eligible phones and cellular wearables (eg smartwatches) from mid-2020. This will open up enhanced possibilities for what you can do with your device. If you want to stay up to date on the eSIM launch, you can register your interest here.
You’ll also need a phone that supports 5G. Options are narrow and expensive, for now. There’s the 5G version Samsung’s Galaxy A90 (a robust $1399 if you pay upfront) or the 5G version of the Note 10+ ($2199). Apple is expected to add 5G to its iPhone line next year. Huawei has 5G models, but so far none are onboard for Vodafone NZ 5G. Some new phones, such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold come in a 5G version but, for now, NZ is only getting the 4G (fourth generation) variant. It’ll take a couple of years for 5G support to filter down the food chain to cheaper models. Note that you’ll need to be inside one of the 5G areas, too. See a coverage map here.
To access 5G, Kiwis need a 5G device from Vodafone New Zealand or selected New Zealand retailers, a Vodafone 5G Ready plan and be in a 5G coverage area. Those customers will be able to experience 5G at no extra cost until 30 June 2020. To access 5G from 1 July 2020, customers will be able to purchase a 5G Add-On for $10 per connection, per month (or the equivalent Prepay term).
5G device launch partner, Samsung has released two new models on the Vodafone 5G network, both offering faster speeds and better processing capacity. The Note 10+ 5G model boasts all the features and capability of the Note 10+ that users love, enhanced by the speeds and reliability of the 5G connection. As well as the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G, which is a more affordable phone, with three rear cameras, an internal expandable memory.
The Vodafone team will continue to build the 5G network over the coming few years, adding Nokia 5G technology to more than 1,500 existing cell sites around the country – up from the initial 100 cell sites that are now live.
But customers will only be able to use the upgrade free until the end of June, after which a $10 monthly surcharge will apply, and most would need a new smartphone costing $1399 or more.
Customers with 5G-capable smartphones and devices could expect download speeds “potentially” five to 10 times faster than when using 4G, chief executive Jason Paris said, paving the way for services such as cloud-based mobile gaming.
Vodafone NZ, which is now owned by NZX-listed Infratil and Canadian investment company Brookfield, has been able to get a jump start in 5G as it owns a chuck of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band that is currently best supported by handset manufacturers.
Its 5G service will work on the Samsung Note 10+ 5G smartphone, which Vodafone is retailing for $2199, and Samsung’s Galaxy A90 5G phone which is priced at “a more affordable” $1399.
The Government is exploring ways to allow mobile network operators to get early access to more 3.5GHz spectrum before existing rights in the band expire in November 2022.
The main use for 5G in the short term is expected to be in providing improved fixed-wireless connections, with large data caps, for customers who are willing to use wireless broadband as an alternative to copper-based and ultrafast broadband.
Spark provides a very limited service in five South Island towns using very high frequency spectrum. But over time, 5G is expected to enable the development of a wide variety of new, low-latency communications services, thanks to its ability to support computational intelligence at the edge of the network, close to customers.