There are a lot of ways to describe the battle that is going on between Vodafone and Telstra right now, one of them is “legal threats” one of them is a certain type of “contest” which normally happens in the toilet – and perhaps that’s where the whole debate should be given how crazy it is – however, we have two big Telcos keen to show who’s best and both have new style devices to prove the point.

The biggest problem we have with 4G is there is 4G and then there is “Cat 4” 4G. “Cat 4” devices are able to go even faster on the right type of 4G network which is great, but there is plenty of confusion about whose network is actually capable of those new higher speeds.

Let’s look at the statements from Telstra and Vodafone:

Telstra states clearly: “The Telstra Mobile Network offers 20MHz of contiguous spectrum across 4G coverage areas in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. In these areas, Customers with CAT4 rated devices may experience moderately faster typical 4G speeds.”

Vodafone’s says its 4G network is: “built on 2 x 20MHz contiguous spectrum in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide” which is just the right type of network to harness the power of Cat 4 4G.

Huawei are the clear winner in this battle, with a phone (Ascend P2) being launched by Telstra (Exclusive to Telstra for 6 months 6 weeks (nb: Telstra have re-negotiated their exclusivity with Huawei so this one will be on other carriers soon too!)) and their new tablet the MediaPad 10 Link 4G launching on Vodafone in August. Both are Cat 4 devices.

There are more Cat 4 devices coming with Samsung on the go to bring one out and if I were a betting man I’d expect Tim Cook to stand up in August and announce the new iPhone will have the “fastest 4G” possible – as they did with Dual Band HSDPA.

So, what’s the big deal?

Telstra are pretty unhappy that Vodafone can come out and say they have a faster network – they signed up the Ascend P2 but probably forgot to ask Huawei about a tablet so Vodafone have that now and can show very clearly their network is faster. That’s a problem for Telstra – in perception only.

I’ve tested the MediaPad 10 Link 4G – And I got 120mbps download speeds – stunning. On the iPhone 5 at the same time and same location – 96mbps.

Speed Test on the Vodafone 4G network using a Huawei MediaPad 10

Speed Test on the Vodafone 4G network using a Huawei MediaPad 10 Link 4G

In several locations across Sydney during a drive around town I topped 100mbps on the tablet (Artarmon, Potts Point and Eastern Creek), while the rest of the time the tablet was normally around 15-20% faster in download speeds.

Interestingly there were several times where the iPhone was faster than the tablet. Of course it’s an open network and you’re not getting reliable lab testing here – but in the real world I found my iPhone was offering excellent speeds at the same time as the Huawei tablet in the 4G areas. If that extra 20mbps is going to change your life – then you should hang out for a Cat 4 device.

Telstra’s problem is spectrum. In Sydney and Melbourne they have only 15MHz, so even when they get Cat 4 they won’t get to maximum speed potential. Yep, you’ll get slightly better than Cat 3, but not the “150” the devices are “capable” of, whereas on Vodafone you’ll get the full spectrum speed potential at launch in Sydney and Melbourne.

They can all say what they like, the fact is I’ve done a LOT of speed tests and as I’ve stated many times, if I’m in a Vodafone 4G area I’d be disappointed with anything under 30mbps downloads, and I’ve regularly seen 50,60 and 70mbps download speeds with the occasional 80 or 90. Plus that awesome 100 I got on my iPhone during the launch of the Vodafone 4G.

With the Huawei Mediapad 10 I got many tests into the 100’s with several over 110 and one over 120. It’s faster – there is doubt about that.

While Telstra may have the coverage to beat Optus and Vodafone, Vodafone have the network that delivers the fastest speeds. Full Stop.

For those of you with ADSL at home operating at 5-12mbps download speeds you’re thinking this is just crazy – and it is. We in Australia have some of the best and fastest networks in the world – enjoy what you have – whoever you are with!

Oh, and while the Ascend P2 and MediaPad 10 Link 4G are great devices, Telstra and Vodafone don’t actually expect to sell many – they are only really available as part of this battle for bragging rights.

Link 4G