[UPDATE: Vodafone did launch 4G on Thursday]
Is superfast model data close than we think? 4G or "LTE" will allow everything from downloading high def movies on the go to extra capacity that could mean you can actually use your phone at an All Blacks game or big concert.
Conventional wisdom holds we won't see commercial 4G rollouts until the government's spectrum auction in the third quarter.
A couple of usually reliable telco industry insiders have told me Vodafone is gearing up for a 4G/LTE launch. One says it could come within days. One source said this Thursday, February 28.
"This is a full-on public launch, not a trial [like Telecom's with a handful of customers], All the testing has been done," says a source. The upgrade was carried out by Vodafone's long-time networkk partner Nokia Siemens Network (NSN).
The media are, apparently, chumps for not being on the case.
I found a trace of evidence over the weekend.
I was over on Auckland's North Shore, one of two areas involved in Telecom's recently launched 4G trial (the other is Lower Hutt).
While having tweaking around with my Huawei 4G data stick, I set it to manually seek carriers at one point ... and what should come up but Vodafone LTE (and it's already been noted too that the latest version of of the iOS software that runs Apple's iPhone has added carrier support for LTE).
I put this finding to Vodafone. A spokeswoman would only offer, "LTE or 4G is an important part of our technology roadmap. Our focus has been on building our [3G] Dual Carrier network and upgrading our Auckland network to double capacity and increase speed."
Ah, yes, that upgrade of 350 of 400 cellsites over Auckland Annivesary weekend - just how much of a speed boost did those towers get? Enough to for a 4G launch without waiting for the government's 700MHz auction, by one estimate. It helps that Vodafone gained extra 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum (which can also be used for 4G) when it bought TelstraClear.
We could soon find out.
Also look for Vodafone to give its leg of the RBI a bit of LTE turbo-boosting.
Though don't get too excited. We might be looking at a trial rather than a commercial launch ... and said commercial launch, once it comes, will only fly if data plans suddenly get a whole lot more generous (so you don't blow your monthly cap within two hours when you take advantage of that fabled 4G ability to download a high def movie).