Questioning Vodafone Coverage and Pricing

When I asked for questions, I was that this one wouldn’t come up. Here’s the deal: there will be some content below the question. That content will contain some answers, but the complete absence of reason is not my fault.
[quote]I have an iPhone question. I am moving from the UK to NZ in January. I will be living in Te Anau in Southland. I want to get an iphone 3Gs (16GB) but wonder if there will be any problems with reception down there. Will I end up frustrated by not being able to use the phone to its potential? Also do I really have to pay an extra charge to use the internet as much as I would like? I had an older model iPhone here and am used to paying 45GBP per month for unlimited internet, etc. on my iPhone. All I really want is to be able to check and send emails with attachments as much as I like, mainly to send and receive photos/videos. I will use it as a phone, but not much. I will surf net, but not much. Although that may change if I figure out facebook. Thanks. Emma[/quote]

On Carriers and Coverage

First up, you have two (main) choices of carrier for your iPhone in New Zealand: Vodafone and Telecom XT. Vodafone is the only official carrier. The iPhone will work on Telecom, but you risk things not working perfectly – tethering for example doesn’t currently work on iPhone OS 3.1 and above.

The sad thing is that Telecom’s XT network is arguably a better choice for using 3G data on the iPhone. In order to understand coverage you need to check my original post on what frequencies each network uses. For the iPhone, you’re looking at the left and right columns in the table. You can see that Vodafone provides 3G data coverage for the iPhone in main centres only.

If you check Vodafone’s coverage map, the iPhone 3G coverage is shown when you tick the red “3G Broadband” option. You can see that Te Anau, Invercargill, and Bluff are pretty much the only coverage areas in Southland. The “3G Broadband Extended” option uses frequencies that the iPhone doesn’t operate on. Of course you’ll still be able to make calls and get a 2G data connection pretty much anywhere you care to travel.

Telecom’s XT 3G coverage on the other hand looks a hell of a lot more comprehensive.

So it’s a hard call: patchy 3G coverage but full phone support with Vodafone, or great 3G coverage with patchy phone support on Telecom. My suggestion would be to try Vodafone first to see if you have good coverage in Te Anau, and perhaps switch to Telecom if it’s not working for you.

On Plans and Pricing

Firstly: there is no such thing as an “unlimited” plan in New Zealand. Full Stop. The only thing that comes close it is Telecom’s $12TXT plan, that allows “unlimited” SMS messages (within the bounds of an “acceptable use policy”) as a $12 add on to your account.

For comparing Vodafone and Telecom plans, here is a niceĀ Google spreadsheet that was put together recently.

For 45GBP, or about $100 NZD, you’re slap bang in the middle of Vodafone’s iPhone $80 and $130 plans. The key difference for you is that iPhone $80 comes with 250MB of data, and $130 gets you 500MB.

Both carriers seem to be settling on 250MB as a “reasonable” data cap for basic plans, but Vodafone has upped that to 3GB temporarily (currently till the end of November). I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll get a decent bump in “reasonable” data once that 3GB offer finishes. 250MB is ok, but it’s certainly not enough that you will be able to “check and send emails with attachments as much as [you] like, mainly to send and receive photos/videos”.

Another option is to go with a “standard” non-iPhone plan, and add Vodafone’s $50 1GB data add-on. But you’d need to pay full-price for your iPhone. Confused yet?

In Conclusion

In summary, New Zealand’s reputation as a backwater is unfortunately confirmed when it comes to smart-phone data pricing. Vodafone’s experimentation with 3GB limits is honourable, but ultimately probably a bait-and-switch attempt for a premium-priced data plan. It’s all about supply and demand. We just don’t have the population density to support pricing similar to the UK.

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