4G and LTE: everything you need to know

Curious about 4G in Australia? TechRadar explains all

It's been a rough couple of years for Vodafone, but the mobile operator has been working hard to turn things around, beginning with the launch of its 4G network mid 2013, and the introduction of its competitive Red plans.

Late to the 4G party, Vodafone had kept quiet on its plans for 4G for a long time, even going so far as to say it was waiting for the right time to launch the network despite rolling out 4G equipment to its network towers since the start of 2011.

Vodafone then began progressively rolling out its LTE network across the capital cities and major metropolitan centres from June 2013 for existing customers, before making 4G accessible to to new customers from July 2013.

Unfortunately Vodafone is still someway off the coverage battle and is choosing to focus its efforts on the highly populated areas of Australia first. Though its a slightly convoluted statistic, Vodafone claims that its 4G network covers 96% of Australia's metropolitan population. Both Optus and Telstra quote coverage in relation to the entire Australian population so it is hard to tell exactly how far behind Vodafone actually is.

Cat 4 LTE is also supported on Vodafone's network, and the network was quick to nab the Cat 4-enabled Galaxy S4 model for its customers in October 2013.

Like Telstra and Optus, Vodafone is using the 1800MHz spectrum for its LTE network. The advantage of this frequency for Vodafone is that it has a lot of it, courtesy of its merger with Hutchison's Three network in 2009.

Unlike Telstra and Optus, it didn't participate in the digital dividend auction, so it will likely continue to rely heavily on the 1800MHz spectrum.

In March, Vodafone announced that it would switch on 4G+ – slightly different to Optus 4G Plus in that it denotes carrier aggregation across its entire 850-1800MHz 4G network – which will boost speed and connectivity across the service.

Contiguous for the win

Late last year, Vodafone was boasting to have the fastest 4G network on the Australian market, though the telco admitted that this likely wouldn't last because, as it was the last to launch its LTE network, it didn't have as big a load and congestion on its network yet.

In terms of devices, like Telstra and Optus, it has all the big names of the past year on its roster - HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Vodafone's contracts for devices are often the cheapest but the other telco's plans are arguably better value, offering notably more data for a few extra bucks.

Vodafone pocket Wi-Fi

Vodafone also offers pocket dongles and USB Wi-Fi hostpots, including those with LTE Cat-4 support.

As part of its Roam Like Home offer for those on the Red plans, Vodafone will switch on global 4G roaming in NZ, the UK and Europe for Aussie customers.