Where & Why were the tests conducted?
On Sunday 01 August 2010, myself & a good friend set out around several different locations, mainly around Hamilton, Cambridge & in between, undertaking 3G Data Speed Tests on both Vodafone NZ & Telecom’s XT Mobile Networks. My friend Chris, owns both of these devices & I must say, it was quite enjoyable playing with these devices over the course of a few hours.
The tests were conducted to provide interested people an indication of 3G Data Speeds at the various locations, where the tests were completed, on the Vodafone 3G & Telecom XT Networks & specifically the Download Speed was being measured here, due to the disparity with the hardware limitations. These tests are a “snap shot” only & Speeds will vary depending on the time of day, number of users & backhaul to each Cell Site, for both Networks. Whilst I appreciate that downloading a 20MB file provides more accurate data throughput information for HSDPA Networks, this was not possible to do on the day of the testing.
The Telecom XT Network is relatively new (just over 1 year 2 months old, at the time of writing this article), compared to Vodafone’s 3G Network (which has been active since 2005) & upgraded with Speed enhancements over time. As a result, it is understood that Vodafone have a greater number of 3G customers, than what Telecom’s XT Network currently has, therefore – due to the greater load on the Vodafone Network, Telecom’s XT Network does have an advantage when it comes to 3G Data Speed Testing, at this time.
What frequencies does Vodafone NZ & Telecom XT Network’s support?
For those who don’t know, Telecom’s XT & Vodafone NZ’s Mobile Networks operate on different frequencies. In a nut shell, the below gives an overview of this:
Vodafone NZ Network
- Nationwide 900MHz GSM 2G Network with infill 1800MHz GSM to provide extra capacity to major cities
- Metropolitan WCDMA 2100MHz 3G Network covering all major cities and some towns with WCDMA 900MHz for Rural coverage
Telecom XT Network
- Nationwide WCDMA 850MHz 3G Network with infill WCDMA 2100MHz network to provide extra capacity in major cities. Telecom NZ does not have a 2G Network.
The tools of the trade….
We used the Apple iPad 3G 64GB, using Firmware Version 3.2 to do our testing on the Telecom XT 3G Network & the Apple iPhone 4 using Firmware Version 4.0.1 to do our testing on Vodafone’s 3G Network.
It should also be noted, that there are some significant differences with each device. The iPad supports Data Speeds up to 7.2Mbit HSDPA download speed, but only a MAX of up to 384KB/s upload speed, utilising WCDMA 850, 1900 & 2100Mhz 3G frequencies & GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz for 2G Network support. The iPad does not currently support HSUPA for faster upload speeds, nor does it support WCDMA 900Mhz , which is what Vodafone NZ utilise in Rural areas, as previously explained.
The lack of WCDMA 900Mhz support for the iPad I found particularly interesting, as both the iPhone 4 & iPad were released at a very similar time, not to mention no HSUPA support either for the iPad. Both devices are sold at a premium price in New Zealand.
Apple iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 supports Data Speeds up to 7.2Mbit HSDPA download & also up to 5.8Mbit HSUPA upload speeds. The iPhone 4 has a Quadband Chip operating on WCDMA 850, 900, 1900 & 2100Mhz 3G frequencies. iPhone 4 also supports GSM/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz for 2G Network support. 900Mhz WCDMA support is great news for users of the Vodafone 3G Network. The previous iPhone 3G & 3Gs did not support 900Mhz WCDMA, meaning you would drop down to the slower 2G GPRS Data Speeds, outside of the main cities/towns – which is roughly equivalent to dial-up speeds.
Now users will get 3G coverage wherever Vodafone have coverage, with the iPhone 4 & both Telecom XT & Vodafone NZ advertise 97% coverage of where New Zealander’s live, work & play, this is not based on land coverage of course.
How were the tests conducted?
The 3G Data Speed Tests were all conducted in exactly the same location for each device & the best of three tests were recorded for each location. A grand total of 15 Speed Tests were conducted & due to the weather (light rain) all tests were conducted inside the car, to protect these very expensive devices. The tests were conducted between 1300 – 1700 (1:00pm-5:00pm) on Sunday afternoon, the 01 August 2010.
Network Latency – “Ping” times
I have found through previous Speed Testing that I have conducted, that the Speed Test App does not report accurate ping times & these should be taken with a large grain of salt, in my honest opinion. In the past I have used Command Prompt on a Windows PC, which has shown latency of around 80-130ms on average on the Vodafone 3G Network. I have not personally tested latency the Telecom XT Network, using this method.
Ok, now that I’ve got all the technical information out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff, that you’ve been waiting to see – the Speed Tests Results!
Location, location, location……
Eagle Way – (Across from The Base Shopping Centre) Hamilton
Hillcrest – The Warehouse Shopping Centre – Hamilton
Waikato University – Hamilton
Matangi – Rural Test
Central Cambridge – Victoria Square
Leamington Domain – Cambridge
Speed Test - Undertaken @ 100km/hr in a car between Tamahere & the Hamilton City Boundary
Telecom’s XT Network was found to be faster for 10 out of the total 15 Speed Tests that were conducted on Sunday 01 August 2010. Some results, were twice as fast or more than the Vodafone NZ Network, at the time of testing.
Interesting though however, Speed Testing in the smaller townships like Cambridge & Matangi – Vodafone NZ did have faster 3G Data throughput with 3 of the 4 tests in these specific areas. With Matangi in particular, Vodafone NZ was twice as fast as Telecom XT, however this was certainly not the norm. Vodafone NZ was also faster at Eagle Way – across from The Base Shopping Centre & finally in Silverdale – rounding off the total of 5 areas that Vodafone were faster, after that, it all went down hill for Vodafone.
During the testing – I made some interesting observations with the iPhone 4, compared to my Nokia 6121c, also on the Vodafone Network. For instance, arriving into Cambridge, my Nokia picked up full 3G signal, 1 minute 30 seconds before the iPhone 4 hit full 3G signal (both phones were held in the same position & my hand was not touching the grip-of-death area on the iPhone 4). Furthermore, when attempted it was “easy” to replicate the “grip-of-death” (signal bars dropped from 5-2 within ~20seconds) with the iPhone 4 & with direct comparisons with my Nokia 6121c throughout the day, the iPhone 4′s signal strength would definitely fluctuate quite a bit, whereas the Nokia would remain very stable in comparison.
Apart from Matangi, where both Vodafone NZ & Telecom XT had patchy coverage (whilst travelling to the testing area), the iPad had rock steady signal strength throughput the various locations where testing was undertaken.
So, that brings this round of 3G Network Speed Testing to an end, I hope you enjoyed the read & feel free to leave a comment or go out & do some 3G Speed Testing in your own area!