Forget About Fast Wireless & 4G Says Optus Boss

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Forget LTE (long-term evolution or 4G) technology, at least for the immediate future – Australia’s No. 2 telco Optus says it is seeing little current demand for the technology and it’s unlikely to take on in Australia until 700MHz spectrum becomes available in a few years.

Forget LTE (long-term evolution or 4G) technology, at least for the immediate future – Australia’s No. 2 telco Optus says it is seeing little current demand for the technology and it’s unlikely to take on in Australia until 700MHz spectrum becomes available in a few years.

That’s certainly the view of Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan, expressed in a teleconference yesterday after the SingTel subsidiary announced its financial results for the year ended March 31, a date that follows the Asian tradition of March financial years. His remarks came as Optus reported a rise in revenue but a slump in profit for its latest financial year.

O’Sullivan was dismissive of announcements by rivals Telstra and Vodafone that they would begin offering 4G services this year, describing these as little more than “bragging rights”.

Telstra earlier this year said it would deploy commercial LTE services in the CBDs of all Australian capitals and selected regional centres by the end of 2011; while Voda in April claimed it was already rolling out some LTE services using 1800MHz spectrum in the Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW (CDN April 18).

“People want to be able to say they have it, and that they can provide it to a small number of customers,” said O’Sullivan.

He said major 4G rollouts in Australia would have to await access to the 700Mhz spectrum, which will be released as part of the “digital dividend” when analogue TV signals – which now use the band – are finally switched off in 2013. “That’s the stage at which you are going to see major widespread consumer demand and acceptance,” O’Sullivan said.

He stressed that Optus’s parent Singtel was trialling 4G across its wider operations. “We will launch 4G soon, and we’ll do it when the market is ready,” he said.

Optus reported net revenue of $2.3 billion for the quarter ended Match 31, up 4.1 percent. Revenue for the full year to March 31 was up 3.7 percent at $9.2 billion – but perhaps more to the point of parent Singtel, thanks to the rise of the Aussie dollar, it was up 7.3 percent in Singapore dollars. Optus accounts for more than half of parent SingTel’s group revenues.

Net profit for Optus in Australian dollars was $992 million, down 2.3 percent for Q4, and $3.8 billion, down 2.1 percent, for the full year.

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