Spark New Zealand Mobile Network (XT Mobile Network)

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The XT Mobile Network is a UMTS mobile network run by Spark New Zealand (formerly Telecom New Zealand). It operates nationwide in the WCDMA/UMTS 850 MHz frequency, with 2100 MHz infill in major urban areas. The network is HSPA+ enabled, with a maximum downlink transmission rate of 21.1 Mbit/s and an uplink rate of 5.2 Mbit/s attainable for capable hardware. HSPA+ has a theoretical maximum of 56 Mbit/s download speed and 22 Mbit/s upload speed. Then under Spark 4G LTE. The network is not 2G capable.

After lengthy internal and corporate trials, the XT Network was launched to the public on 29 May 2009, at 7:30am. The network was the successor to Telecom NZ's CDMA mobile network. With the shutdown of CDMA in 2012, XT is currently the company's sole mobile network.

The name "XT Mobile Network" does not get used by Spark anymore, it has been called: "XT Mobile Network", then "The Smartphone Network" under Telecom, and now "Spark Mobile" under Spark.

New Features[edit]

With the launch of the XT network, a number of new services were available to subscribers, including Prepaid roaming, video calls, Mobile TV, and high-speed internet access.

Launch[edit]

On 27 April 2009, Telecom announced that the new XT Mobile network would launch on 13 May 2009 at 6:30pm.[1][2][3] However, a Vodafone New Zealand and Telecom dispute about Network Interference pushed the date to 29 May.[4]

In May 2009, Vodafone sued Telecom, accusing it of interfering with their network, using the same frequency bands as their existing 3G network. However, Telecom had said it is working with Vodafone to resolve the issues and was surprised by that company's decision to go legal.[5] A decision was made between the two companies to increase the filtering of the network, with neither company stating who was footing the bill[4]

Network Outages[edit]

On Monday, 14 December 2009 at approximately 4:30am, the Telecom XT Mobile Network went down for the majority of people who live south of Taupo for eight hours (although there were claims of issues slightly before this time). Telecom said a technical fault, affecting a Christchurch-based technology component that was installed to fix a prior fault, had caused the loss of mobile service, including voice, SMS, and mobile broadband[6][7]

At approximately 7am on the morning of the network outage, Telecom published a statement via Twitter acknowledging the issues. The network was fully restored by approximately 5:00pm the same day. The older CDMA network was not affected during the outage of the XT network.

On Wednesday, 27 January 2010 around mid-morning, the Telecom XT Mobile Network once again suffered a major outage, affecting approximately 100,000 customers south of Taupo. The outage was believed to be caused by similar circumstances as the late-2009 event. This was fixed for many users within around 7 hours; however, many areas including Queenstown, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill had still not been restored as of Thursday 28 January 2010 at 7pm, with some users experiencing up to 3 days without service in some areas. This second network crash in two months caused a considerable public uproar and raised serious questions about the credibility of Telecom and its XT Network.

CURRENT OUTAGE: On Wednesday, 11 February 2015 at around 1730hrs the network suffered another major outage, preventing customers nationwide from making or receiving calls, sending/receiving text messages and using mobile data.[8][9]

Advertising[edit]

Before and immediately after launch the XT mobile network was promoted by 3 advertisements hosted by Richard Hammond, and following this was an advert featuring stuntwoman/actress Zoë Bell, advertising speed and roaming capabilities.

Telecom claimed that the XT Network to be "Faster in more places" than any other mobile network in New Zealand, including competitor Vodafone and start-up 2degrees; these claims were backed by independent testing commissioned by Telecom. Advertising material at the time proclaimed the network to reach "97% of places Kiwis live and work". This claim was quietly removed in early 2010.[10]

As of 2011 the exact meaning of "XT" remains unknown to the public, as even Telecom's website fails to address this anomaly. An independent news website featured a "Q&A" having questions submitted by the public and answers from Telecom representatives, and one of the questions asked addressed this: "What time on friday will the network launch? What does XT stand for? XTra? tXT? eXTraordinary? Xtra Telecom?". The network's response only addressed the first part of the question: "The official XT Launch time is 07:30 29 May 2009."[11]

Competitors[edit]

Telecom has two mobile network competitors in the New Zealand market.

Vodafone New Zealand which operates a GSM 900/1800 network since 1993, a WCDMA 2100 MHz network since 2005 and were also the first to launch a 4G LTE network[12] in NZ.[13]
Vodafone, in response to Telecom's "Faster In More Places" claim, had constructed a nation-wide WCDMA 900 MHz network in areas where they did not already have an existing 2100 MHz network. Vodafone also controls 66% of the mobile market.

2degrees, a recent start-up, currently operates a GSM 900/1800 EDGE network and WCDMA 2100 network. They have built a 4G LTE service enabled 2014.

Spark, 2Degrees and Vodafone all operate 4G networks in LTE band 3 and LTE band 28 with band 3 coverage mostly in cities and towns; band 28 available predominantly across rural towns and coastal areas. Additionally Spark has licences to provide LTE band 7 services.

4G LTE Network[edit]

The 4G LTE coverage was initially offered to subscribers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch starting November 12, 2013. Telecom estimates that half of its smartphone network will be able to offer 4G LTE by the end of 2014."[14] The frequencies that are used for LTE are 1800 MHz (LTE Band 3) initially, then additionally 700 MHz when analogue TV frequencies were retired.[15] The first 4G 700 MHz (LTE Band 28) cell sites came online in areas of rural Waikato in mid 2014.[16] Spark also has 2600 MHz band 7 LTE, carrier aggregation is available, with a compatible handset band 3 (1800 MHz) and band 7 can be used simultaneously to speed up data access (available in Auckland).[17]

Date Geographical Areas[18] LTE Band 3 (1800) LTE Band 28 (700) LTE Band 7 (2600)
late 2013 Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch Yes
2014 Auckland Yes Yes (central city)
late 2014 Dunedin, Queenstown & Arrowtown, Te Anau, Wanaka, Greymouth Hanmer Springs, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Nelson & Richmond, Motueka Yes
late 2014 Cromwell, Takaka Yes
mid 2014 Waikato rural: Thames, Waihi, Turanga, Hamilton, Taupo, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Morrinsville, Matamata, Huntley, Coromandel Yes
mid 2014 Rotorua, Taupo Yes Yes
mid 2014 Ohakune, Masterton Yes
late 2014 Whitianga, Pauanui, Matarangi, Whakatane Yes
late 2014 Warkworth, Snells Beach, Bay of Islands Yes
late 2014 Whangarei Yes

It is worth noting that band 28 700MHz is not the same at the AWS 700MHz supported in North America (Band 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, 17). It is important that the band number matches the phone to the network that it is intended to be used with, otherwise only 3G service will be available. Generally XT mobile customers should look for phones designed for the Asia Pacific 4G market (as apposed to North America 4G market). Here are some common phones and international model variants available in New Zealand:

Phone Specific model Band 3 (1800) Band 28 (700) Band 7 (2600)
iPhone 5 A1429 Yes
iPhone 5c A1507 and A1529 (A1529 sold by Spark) Yes Yes
iPhone 5c A1532, A1456 Yes
iPhone 5s A1533 Yes
iPhone 5s A1457 A1530 Yes Yes
iPhone 6 All Yes Yes Yes
Galaxy S5 SM-G900I (sold by Spark) Yes Yes
Galaxy S5 SM-G900F Yes Yes
Galaxy S5 mini SM-G800Y Yes Yes Yes
Lumia 635 RM-974 (international) Yes Yes
Lumia 635 RM-975 (North America)

This model is generally inappropriate for use in New Zealand for 4G

Yes

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Telecom reveals May 13 launch for new 3G network". NZ Herald. 27 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Vaughan, Gareth (27 April 2009). "New mobile network to launch May 13". Stuff.co.nz. 
  3. ^ "Telecom brings 3G launch forward". TVNZ. 27 April 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Chang, Adrian; Vaughan, Gareth (7 May 2009). "Vodafone, Telecom reach deal". Stuff.co.nz. 
  5. ^ "Vodafone says interference is beyond its control". Computerworld. 5 May 2009. 
  6. ^ Francis, Clio (14 December 2009). "Telecom XT network restored". 
  7. ^ Nash, Kieran (14 December 2009). "Telecom's XT network still down south of Taupo". NZ Herald. 
  8. ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/66065932/sparks-mobile-network-struggling
  9. ^ https://twitter.com/SparkNZ/status/565373242903646208
  10. ^ "Commission eyes Telecom's about-face on XT". 
  11. ^ "Telecom XT Network Q&A - Questions & Answers". Scoop Media. 26 May 2009. 
  12. ^ "Vodafone announces 4G LTE". Geekzone. 
  13. ^ "Vodafone mobile network". Vodafone NZ. 
  14. ^ "Telecom 4G planned to launch by Oct 2013". Telecom NZ. 9 April 2013. 
  15. ^ http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/telecom-4g-launch-october-ck-138371
  16. ^ http://www.reseller.co.nz/article/553457/spark_goes_live_4g_700mhz_waikato/
  17. ^ http://www.sparknz.co.nz/news/mobilebroadbandrural/
  18. ^ "Spark why ultramobile".