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While New Zealanders wait for word on the Government's intentions for broadband investment, Australians were yesterday told they are about to get the fastest wireless network in the world.

Partially owned by the Australian Government, telco giant Telstra said it would roll out what it calls the world's fastest wireless broadband network over the next two months.

Chief executive Sol Trujillo announced that Telstra would be increasing the maximum speed of its Next G mobile network to 21 megabits per second (Mbps) for business customers, starting on February 23, from the current maximum of 14.4Mbps.

Last November a survey of New Zealand's internet providers found Orcon had the fastest average download speed with an average of just 5.2Mbps.

Of the major companies in the broadband market, TelstraClear was next with 3.5Mbps, followed by Vodafone and Telecom. The national average line speed was 3.4Mbps.

Telstra, Australia's biggest telecommunications company, says the faster speed will be gradually rolled out for all business customers through March and then made available to consumer customers in April.

Trujillo said Telstra would increase the speed to 42Mbps towards the end of 2009 and in early 2010.

"Everything changes when you can do things faster," Trujillo told journalists. "We will again keep Australia ... ahead of the world by enabling this capability."

A faster network increases the products and services that Telstra can offer its customers, and also allows Telstra to handle traffic on its network more efficiently, a benefit to the company even if users don't upgrade.

Trujillo said customers would probably experience speeds two to three times faster than what were available now, depending on network conditions.

The new speeds will widen the gap with Telstra's rival mobile operators, Optus and the now-merging Vodafone and Hutchison.

Optus' network operates at a maximum speed of 7.2Mpbs, and others at maximum speeds of 3.6Mpbs.

But Optus said Telstra customers would have to buy a new modem and "live or work" beneath an exchange to achieve the speed increase.

Telstra's services cost more than double its rivals, with a 1 gigabyte (GB) pack costing A$59 ($74) a month.

- AAP