Vodafone Australia has delayed plans to cover 95 percent of the population with HSPA technology by the end of this year, citing network supplier Ericsson as responsible for the extension in timescale. In a statement, the operator said that “a vast majority of the engineering and hardware installation work has already been completed,” but CTO Andy Reeves added that “it will take Ericsson longer than originally anticipated to complete the project.” No new target date was set, although an Australian IT report claims the project, reported to be worth around AUS$500 million (US$329 million), will be completed by the first half of 2009. Vodafone’s 3G network currently covers 63 percent of the Australian population, whilst its 2G GSM network covers 94.5 percent.

The delay is a blow to Vodafone Australia’s plans to compete with rivals Optus and Telstra in the country’s competitive mobile broadband market. Earlier this year Optus announced its intention to reach 96 percent of the country’s population by the end of this year, using kit from Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks. However, both Optus and Vodafone trail market-leader Telstra, which launched its ‘Next G’ HSPA network in 2006 – using kit from Ericsson – and claims to already cover 99 percent of the population. Earlier this week Telstra also announced plans to launch the world’s first ‘Enhanced HSPA’ network by the end of this year, featuring peak downlink speeds of up to 21 Mb/s.