Who's the biggest of them all? Spark and Vodafone tussle over 4G superiority

  • Telecommunications
  • February 3, 2015
  • Holly Bagge
Who's the biggest of them all? Spark and Vodafone tussle over 4G superiority
(Image credit: Stuff.co.nz)

New Zealand’s main telco superpowers are butting heads after a billboard war, with both companies claiming to have the country’s largest 4G network.

In December last year, Spark Spokesperson Andrew Pirie said the company would consider complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority in the new year after writing to Vodafone and requesting it take its billboards down, but Vodafone declined and said its claim for the largest 4G network presented on its billboard was valid.

"Under the Fair Trading Act you have got to be able to substantiate any claim. While we accept for the past year they [Vodafone] have been able to substantiate it, we believe they are at a point or getting very close to a point where that is going to be problematic for them."

In the end, Spark decided not to file a complaint, and instead matched Vodafone’s billboard with its own, also claiming to have the largest 4G coverage.

Spark spokesperson Lucy Fullarton says Spark’s 4G is the country’s largest 4G network, providing the most widespread coverage over New Zealand.

“What our billboard says is that we have the largest 4G network, we believe that’s the case. They [Vodafone] have had a bit of a headstart but since we launched our 4G [in November 2013] we have charged ahead and now reach 70 different places, two thirds of the population.

“What we look at is the total coverage that we offer New Zealand and we believe the network is bigger.”

Fullarton also says 5G is a likely possibility for the future, but won’t confirm when this will be possible.

“So this technology moves really fast and the provider who we have joined up, Huawei, has thousands of people focused on research and development, over 70,000 people. So they are moving really rapidly and we are always looking at how we can improve the network.”

Vodafone’s external communications specialist Brad Pogson was less willing to answer questions right away, but says there’s “a million reasons” why Vodafone’s 4G is superior.

“…we’ve said we have the ‘largest’ 4G network, and we’re still very confident that this is true despite Spark’s claims. We haven’t changed our claim. We don’t believe Spark has the largest 4G network, and we’re not sure they can substantiate this claim under the Fair Trading Act. Based on our search of the radio spectrum management database yesterday, we still have more 4G sites than Spark, and we believe, greater 4G population coverage.”

Pogson also says Vodafone’s lawyers have written to Spark to ask them to provide evidence of their claim.

“In addition to New Zealand’s 4G network coverage, our customers can use our 4G service in 38 countries around the world through our unique Daily Roaming plan. Vodafone’s global reach gives our customers access to the world’s largest 4G network.”

Up until now, Vodafone has been pushing the superiority and reach of its 4G network with its ‘end of the internet’ and ‘play to win with Vodafone sailing’ campaigns, which both emphasise its 4G capacity, using it as the company’s major point of difference.

Before Christmas, Vodafone claimed on its website it had 63 percent population coverage with its 4G network.

Meanwhile, 2degrees is still ticking along with its 4G rollout, 2degree’s corporate communications manager Charlene White confirmed today.

“We completed our Auckland trial early last year which went vey well. We have since rolled out 4G on our network to Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Mount Maunganui, Wellington and Christchurch. This year is another big year as we roll out 4G wider to provincial areas now that the main centres have been covered.”

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