Vodafone has edged ahead of Telecom (soon to be Spark) in the race to activate 700MHz-based 4G in New Zealand after switching on the service in Papakura earlier today. This follows last week's formal commercial launch of the service.
Papakura, in south Auckland represents about 1.1 per cent of the country's population.
According to Vodafone technology director, Sandra Pickering, the focus is now on "activating 4G wherever possible on new Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) sites this year."
Pickering said the telecommunications provider will be working on progressive upgrades of existing sites with 700MHz, while adding "a number of new sites each year" to extend coverage.
Meanwhile, Vodafone's main competitor, Telecom, has promised to launch its own 4G services in the 700MHz band in late August, the same month it rebrands to Spark.
Last week, Telecom said it would introduce 11 cell sites across the Waikato region, covering Hamilton, Morrisville, and surrounding areas.
Telecom ensured it would have more than double the 700MHz spectrum allocation of its competitors by investing $NZ158 million at the digital dividend auction for radio spectrum, following the end of analogue TV broadcasts.
Specifically, it walked away from the government's auction with 20MHz of radio spectrum, and was granted clearance to buy the final block of 5MHz by the Commerce Commission in May.
"Telecom now owns the largest block of 700MHz spectrum," Telecom COO, David Havercroft, said last week. "From late August, our 700MHz network will be launched and open for commercial traffic in the Waikato region, where we have already been trialling the technology since May."
Customers looking to utilise 4G over 700MHz must have a compatible device -- currently, the only commercially-available product which supports the frequency is HTC's One (M8) flagship which was launched earlier this year.