Vodafone has launched a 1.4 Mbit/s HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) service, in Germany - while the UK gets another trial of the new technology in April.
"We have seen high demand for 3G since its launch two years ago and our customers are hungry for the improvements that HSDPA will deliver," said Tim Miles, Vodafone's UK CEO.
Clearly the demand is higher in Germany, where users can now buy HSDPA services, than in the UK, where a commercial trial (predicted last year) starts in April within the M25 area. It is not yet known how many users will be on the UK trial, or what they will be paying.
The service in Germany, launched at the CeBIT fair in Hanover, is available in Hanover, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich, with plans to eventually reach 1,800 German towns. It will cost 49 per month for 5GB of data. If users break the 5GB barrier for two months, they will be charged 0.50 for every extra megabyte.
Vodafone expects the service to be mostly used by laptops at this stage, but has an HSDPA phone that will appear in the second quarter of the year: the Samsung SGH-ZV50 - a clamshell phone with a 2 megapixel camera - that will be sold exclusively by Vodafone.
Meanwhile, laptops will use HSDPA cards (such as the tr-band card recently launched by Option), though later this year laptops with built-in HSDPA will appear (as promoted by Intel). Vodafone showed two HSDPA laptops at CeBIT , from Dell and Lenovo
As well as offering greater speeds to individual users, HSDPA will also offer more capacity for operators like Vodafone, so more people at the same location can use the network at the same time.
Vodafone could not say when the UK trial would become a full commercial service, but promised that the basic 3G service would reach all major towns and cities in the UK by the end of this year.
Nancy Gohring of IDG News Service contributed to this report.
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