Recently there were quite a few posts on the NZNOG mailing list regarding mobile data options in New Zealand, especially for travelling and cost. I thought I would write a post regarding the different options and my opinions on them. I am specifically looking at packs marketed as “Prepaid Mobile Broadband” plans. So I won’t be counting data included in plans such as the $19 prepaid combos that 2degrees, Vodafone and Telecom offer.
Telecom’s prepaid offerings are:
On all Telecom plans, once you reach your including limit you revert to their Casual data rate which is $1 for 10MB and $1 for every MB over that. You can of course just purchase another data pack.
2degrees is a bit different. Due to the way their network works they have two different data systems, but see down a bit further for that.
Their National Mobile Data packs are:
Their Mobile Broadband Zone packs are:
Best pricing: 2degrees
Telecom have 3G coverage nationwide. They use 850MHz and 2100MHz as infill. It is important to note that just because a phone supports 2100MHz doesn’t guarantee coverage. There is very real potential for coverage to be lost even in cities if you don’t have a device that supports the 850MHz frequency.
The boast to be the fastest, and to be the “smartphone” network. In reality I have found their coverage to be very good, and have been able to pickup signal in areas that Vodafone and 2degrees can’t be received. I have also seen Youtube videos streamed without buffering in fringe coverage areas, where Vodafone and 2degrees coverage has ended.
Vodafone have 3G coverage on the 2100MHz frequency and 900MHz. Their original 3G network deployment in Urban areas used 2100MHz, but they have been moving towards 900MHz on new towers to provide 3G coverage to all New Zealanders (in roughly the same coverage area as their 2G GSM network).
Their coverage can be a bit sketchy sometimes, although I have often heard of it being available in places where Telecom is not. I have also heard horrendous stories about latency and speeds on Vodafone. I haven’t experienced this myself, the speeds I’ve had over Vodafones network have been entirely reliable.
If you move outside of their 3G coverage areas you will be on their 2G data network which will be horribly slow.
Vodafone do have DC-HSDPA in some areas, but I have no information regarding the performance of this.
2degrees are building their own network using the 900MHz and 2100MHz as infill in urban areas. Areas that have had their own towers installed and activated are part of their Mobile Broadband Zone and therefore the cheaper and better value pricing packs are available. Where they do not have their own network you are roaming on Vodafones network so coverage will match theirs, and you can expect the same performance as Vodafone.
In terms of their own network performance I have generally found it to be faster than Vodafone, and match XT, out performing XT in some cases.
2degrees do provide EDGE on 2G connections, so if you end up outside their 3G network you will get slightly better 2G speeds than Vodafone, but it will still be painful.
Best coverage and performance: Telecom
Overall if you want good nationwide coverage and good speeds with good value then Telecom would be the way to go. However if you are inside 2degrees Mobile Broadband zones and are not planning on using it outside these zones, then 2degrees provide the best value for money out of the three. If you need nationwide coverage and your equipment only supports 900MHz not 850MHz, then Vodafone would be your choice, but it’s hard to recommend Vodafone in any other situation, simply because of their pricing.
Time and time again I hear people in New Zealand say the thing that stops them from changing mobile phone telco is the fact they have to change their number. And over and over again I hear people referring to themselves as being on 021, imply they are on Vodafone, or 027 and imply they are on Telecom. Well Vodafone, Telecom, 2degrees etc do have their own block of numbers that they allocate to know customers (021, 027, 022) etc, but that doesn’t mean that the number is on that network anymore, and it hasn’t for a long time. My phone number starts with an 027, but I am not on Telecom anymore. I changed to 2degrees over 6 months ago, and haven’t really looked back. It is really simple in New Zealand, and can take as little as 3 hours. (When I did mine it took about 3 hours from when I requested it, until it was done, but it can take longer). 2degrees simplify this process. If you are a 2degrees customer, you can login to their My 2degrees portal, and request your number be ported. All you need is the SIM card number from your old SIM card, or the ESN number if you are on Telecom CDMA (which is closing next year anyway). This information is also required for other networks, but I am not sure what their process is for getting a number ported from another network to theirs.
So now, people no longer have the excuse of “I can’t change my number” when it comes to making a decision about what Mobile Telco to give their business to. It’s completely irrelevant. So now competitive pricing, and high quality service, is even more important if Telcos want to keep their customers (I’m looking at you Vodafone and Telecom).