SYDNEY – Australia’s No. 2 telco Singtel Optus yesterday announced plans to introduce a 4G mobile phone and data network, 10 months after No. 1 rival Telstra began its 4G service.
Optus’s 4G service, using FDD-LTE technology, will initially be restricted to two Australian cities – Perth and Sydney – and will be available only to business customers.
In contrast, Telstra’s 4G launch last September covered all major capital city CBDs and more than 30 regional cities, with both business and consumers able to sign up.
Optus’s networks MD Gunther Ottendorfer told a media briefing yesterday that Melbourne would get the 4G service in coming days or weeks, with Brisbane to follow later this year and Adelaide next year.
There was no mention of Canberra, Hobart, Darwin or major regional centres.Sydney and Perth 4G business users will pay $34.95 a month for a plan that allows them 10GB of data; $54.95 for a 15GB data plan; or $74.95 for a 20GB data deal. Devices to access the network are extra.
Consumer 4G services are expected to be announced in coming weeks.No 4G-enabled mobile smartphone is available at this stage, but Optus is offering business users their choice – at extra cost – of two 4G connection devices: a USB dongle or a what it calls the Optus 4G Mobile Wi-Fi Modem, which enables a number of devices to connect to the basic 4G service wirelessly.
Both devices operate across Optus’s 1800, 2100 and 900MHz spectrum bands, switching to 3G connections where 4G is not available, Optus says.
Optus claims the 4G network is capable of delivering downloads of up to 47 megabits per second, but upload speeds were not stated and market commentators repeat warnings that – as with Telstra – theoretical top speeds are not always reached by daily users. (CDN which sometimes uses Telstra’s 4G service, consistently gets about 26Mbps down, compared with 8-10Mbps on our everyday ADSL2+ service).
Optus yesterday also said it is continuing to conduct trials of alternative TD-LTE technology at its Macquarie Park campus and in St Mary’s, Sydney, and has achieved consistent speeds of 25-87Mbps.
Does that mean it plans to replace the current FDD-LTE system with TD-LTE in the future, perhaps requiring new user equipment?
“Our goal is to have one single integrated 4G network that utilises the latest LTE technologies to offer our customers a great 4G network experience,” said the ever-tactful Gunther Ottendorfer.
Optus yesterday also said it has upgraded more than 1000 3G mobile sites that use its 900MHz spectrum, delivering “stronger performance” in regional centres and some capital cities.
The technology, which it dubs 3G Plus, will be extended to the rest of the 900Mhz network over the next 12 months, it said.