Vodafone is promising its first 3.5Mbit/s '3G broadband' product on Oct 1. Called the Vodem, it's a wireless modem that will connect your latptop or desktop to the internet at a theoretical top speed that matches the fastest flavours of land-line DSL - though Vodafone cautions in a press release that day-to-day speed will more in the region of 800Kbit/s to 1.2Mbit/s. That's still blistering compared to the 80Kbit/s to 120Kbit/s real-life speeds you get from current Vodafone 3G phones, and around 384Kbit/s from data cards.
Yes, to take advantage of '3G broadband' (that is, Vodafone's move to a much faster wireless broadband technology called HSDPA), you will need to buy a Vodem, or a new cellphone that's HSDPA-compatible.
3G broadband will initially be available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with a launch data plan of $49/month for 1GB. If you bust your cap, data surcharges will be a nose-bleed $0.50 a megabyte, or $500 a gigabyte (scary, but actually better than the $1 a megabyte gouge on most 3G plans today). The service will be extended to other towns over the next 18 months.
The Vodem will cost $429; an HSDPA PC Card will be available for $529, and Samsung has two HSDPA cellphones on the way for $999 and $1099 respectively.
Telecom has its own comparable 3G upgrade coming during 2007, which will boost its T3G service to EV-DO Rev A technology and a 3.1Mbit/s theoretical maximum. Around the same time, Vodafone is promising a fresh upgrade to take it's network to 7.2Mbit/s, while Telecom says its coming (some time, some day) EV-DO Rev B upgrade will leap-frog it back into the lead, taking its service to 73.5Mbit/s (love that point-five).
A Vodem will land at PC World HQ in a few days, so we'll let you know how it goes.