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Vodafone refarms 3G spectrum in Australia and staff in New Zealand

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(Image: Asha McLean/ZDNet)

Vodafone is shifting around spectrum and jobs in its Australasian operations.

Vodafone Hutchinson Australia (VHA) will be refarming its 2100Mhz spectrum from 3G operations to 4G in certain areas of New South Wales, with work due to commence on March 18.

The telco said the other mainland states will follow throughout the year, with the NSW-enclaved Australian Capital Territory already shifted across.

Vodafone customers that have devices relying solely on a 2100Mhz 3G connection will need to use another handset.

“This upgrade work will ensure the 4G network gets a capacity boost, so more of our customers can use their data to stream their favourite content or use social media, while still keeping our 3G network strong,” Vodafone general manager of Access Delivery Networks Tom Joynson said.

“Once the work is complete in each state, we will be delivering even better service to more than 90 percent of Vodafone’s mobile subscribers across Australian metro areas.”

Telstra completed a similar switch in September last year, and provided a list of its handsets [PDF] impacted — including such classics as Blackberry Curve 9320, HTC Windows Phone 8S, phones by the Sony Ericsson brand, and a number of Microsoft Lumias.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman, the NZ Herald is reporting that Vodafone New Zealand has offered all of its staff, other than call centre and retail staff, voluntary redundancy.

AAP reports that the telco is creating a new operating model that it has yet to finalise, so the number and types of jobs to go are still up in the air.

In September, Vodafone NZ reported a NZ$7.7 million drop in profit to NZ$39 million, which the telco said was due to one-off advisor costs for a potential IPO, as well as foreign exchange losses.

Revenue was up by NZ$5.1 million to NZ$2 billion off the back of increasing mobile customer numbers. Vodafone NZ said it added 92,000 customers over the last 12 months while rivals Spark gained 58,000 and 2degrees lost 27,000 customers.

As for the Vodafone joint venture in Australia, VHA last month reported its revenue had increased 5.5 percent year on year to AU$3.65 billion for the year to December 31, and its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) jumped by 13.4 percent to AU$1.1 billion.

The company, however, continued to fail to post a net profit, but it did reduce its net loss by 30 percent to AU$124 million.

CEO Iñaki Berroeta said the company had spent AU$1.3 billion during the year to handle the increases in data being used, and to get its network ready for 5G. The spend included constructing 180 new mobile sites and upgrading 850 existing sites.

Vodafone Australia and TPG are currently waiting to hear back from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the proposed merger of the two companies.

After delaying its decision previously due to a lack of information, the consumer watchdog has left the date for its decision hanging.

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Chorus gigabit broadband customers in Auckland and Wellington can apply to be among the first to trial a new 10Gbps-speed service.

Vodafone trials long distance drone flight tech on 4G networks (TechRepublic)

The network lets users monitor drone flights up to 120 meters above grown and identify nearby drones while managing them separately.

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2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat sells out completely

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The latest announcement will come as no surprise to anyone who follows Dodge muscle cars. Most car guys and gals knew last summer when Dodge announced it would build the 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat for six months that every one of the units would be gobbled up. Some speculated that a six-month build window meant there would be lots of the vehicles made.

Production has been limited to 2000 units, and all 2000 of them have been spoken for. Reports indicate it took about three months for Dodge to fill every build slot it had available. Orders stopped in January 2021, but Dodge does say that there may be some dealer-allocated units left available for a limited time.

What that means is there may be some inventory available on dealer lots, but you can bet they will be massively marked up. The starting price for the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is $82,490, including the destination charge. The claim to fame for the Durango Hellcat is the supercharged 710 horsepower V-8 that makes 645 pound-feet of torque.

The SUV features all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can reach 60 mph from a standstill in 3.5 seconds. It would make the ultimate tow vehicle with an 8700-pound towing capacity. Deliveries are expected to start this summer, and each buyer gets a free day of high-speed driving at the Bondurant High-Performance Driving School in Chandler, Arizona.

One bit of bad news has surfaced from Dodge head Tim Kuniskis on the Durango Hellcat returning for 2022. He stated that emissions regulations would prevent the V-8 from being packed into the Durango after the 2021 model year. Specifically, 2022 model year vehicles are held to new evaporative emission requirements the Hellcat doesn’t meet in that platform.

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Paul Walker’s beautiful 1980 BMW M1 AHG heads to auction

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Paul Walker was an incredibly popular actor that tragically died very early in his life. Walker left behind a daughter and other family members, along with an incredible collection of cars. The BMW M1 seen in the images here was part of the AE Performance collection chaired by Walker and Roger Rodas before being acquired in 2014 by the current owner.

The vehicle is chassis number WBS0000009430109 and reportedly came from the factory as a solid white vehicle. It received its BMW blue and red livery paint job as part of an AHG Studie treatment. Every car sent to AHG received a unique paint job of the customer’s choice by Hermann Altmiks, and each of them had “altmiks lackdesign” painted under the left rear tail light.

The package also included aerodynamic panels inspired by M1 racecars. Those components included a new front air dam, side skirts, and rear spoiler. The front bumper and surrounding fascia on the car did receive a repaint in 2016. The car has flared fenders and three-piece 16-inch BBS wheels shod with modern tires.

Ventilated disc brakes are at all four corners, and the car is essentially restored to like-new condition with standard suspension. The interior features black leather and checkered cloth on the doorbell inserts, headliner, and rear firewall. The car does have air conditioning, power seats, and a cassette player.

Power comes from an in-line-six cylinder engine with fuel injection and six individual throttle bodies. Cars tuned by AHG were upgraded to produce 350 horsepower, and the vehicle has a manual transmission. Currently, it’s up for auction at Bringatrailer with nine days to go. As of writing, the vehicle is bid up to $390,000. It’s a beautiful car, and with celebrity ownership in its past, odds are the price will go higher.

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2021 Infiniti QX80 Review – Four-wheeled fratricide

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Sometimes buying smart involves hoops and hurdles, and other times it’s as easy as two dealerships probably occupying the same lot. So goes it for the 2021 Infiniti QX80, the automaker’s biggest and burliest SUV, making its pitch for seven or eight seat excellence but finding Nissan may have stolen its thunder along the way.

The QX80 has road presence, not least because of its scale. A full 17.5 feet long and over 6.5 feet wide, it’s unapologetically huge, draped in chrome and riding – in Premium Select 4WD trim – on 22-inch forged dark aluminum-alloy wheels. For the 2021 model year the line-up kicks off at $69,050 (plus $1,395 destination) for the QX80 Luxe; Premium Select adds all-wheel drive among other things, and starts at $76,450.

Under the vast hood is Infiniti’s familiar 5.6-liter V8 engine. It now produces a hefty 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, funneled to all four wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission and a two speed transfer case. It’ll tow up to 8,500 pounds, and do 0-60 mph in about six seconds.

You’ll want a straight road for that. Point the QX80 at the horizon and plant your right foot, and the beefy SUV hunkers down and surges forward. It doesn’t feel so much fast, as potent: I’ve never faced down a rhinoceros as it builds up to a gallop, but I suspect it’s a similar experience to the Infiniti’s acceleration.

At 5,706 pounds it weighs more than the average white rhino, however, and so corners are better taken at more sedate speeds. With the suspension dialed in at the soft end of the scale there’s no shortage of body roll if you try to hustle too rapidly, though the upshot is the sort of plush ride you used to have to drive a 70s Lincoln to achieve. Factor in “you only wanted to use one finger, right?” levels of power steering boost, and it’s clear this behemoth was made for cruising.

Within that niche, it does admirably. The V8 thrums in the background, but generally noise isolation keeps the irksome world outside at a long arm’s distance. Infiniti’s 7-speed slurs discreetly, but an eighth ratio for even quieter highway work wouldn’t go awry. Inside, meanwhile, there’s decent space for as many as eight, though usually Infiniti outfits the QX80 with seven seats. The second row is no compromise, with Premium Select spec getting captain’s chairs and a large center console between them.

The third row is a little smaller, but not so much that only the smallest kids need be slotted back there. Power adjustment helps balance their space with the trunk: there’s 16.6 cu-ft with all the seats up, 49.6 cu-ft with the third-row down, and a positively capacious 95.1 cu-ft with the third and second row down. The seats themselves are a little bulky, however, particularly the captain’s chairs.

Infiniti doesn’t stint on the leather, and there’s tri-zone climate control, heated – though not cooled – front seats, a power tailgate and power moonroof, remote start, and a heated steering wheel. A 360-degree camera, blind spot warnings and assistance, and lane departure warnings and detection are standard, too, as is Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Bose 13-speaker audio system. Adaptive cruise is standard, too.

That all looks good on a checklist, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Infiniti’s InTouch Dual HD infotainment system looks dated and is frustrating to use. The graphics – particularly in the navigation system – are tired, even with a recent update, and the whole thing feels disjointed. Factor in the profusion of buttons on the steering wheel and center console, and it just doesn’t feel as modern and sophisticated as its rivals or, indeed, a SUV with a near-$80k sticker as tested.

Infiniti has a problem, then, and like in the best horror stories it’s coming from inside the house. Nissan’s Armada has always been the QX80’s more affordable sibling, and since the 2021 Armada revamp it’s no longer the value compromise but the sensible pick, period.

Exterior styling is subjective, but there’s no argument that Nissan’s upgrade to the Armada’s center console puts it leagues ahead of what the QX80 makes do with. A single 12.3-inch wide-aspect touchscreen handles the heavy-lifting, with a straightforward panel of knobs and buttons for the HVAC. It looks better, and feels faster and more intuitive than the Infiniti’s system, and the fact is that the rest of the cabin feels eight- or nine-tenths to what the QX80 offers in terms of materials and comfort.

A top-spec 2021 Armada Platinum 4×4 is $67,900 plus destination, however, or about $10k less than the starting price of this midrange 2021 QX80 Premium Select 4WD. Both share the same engine – and the same driving dynamics – and both are fairly thirsty, the Infiniti rated for 13 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg combined. I got about that with my own mixed driving.

Perhaps there’s more cachet in putting a QX80 on your driveway than the Armada, but seldom has paying for a prestige badge resulted in such an obvious compromise. The new Armada has gone from nipping at Infiniti’s heels to overtaking it, and it’s tough to argue against the wise money getting spent on the Nissan.

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