Telstra’s 4G much faster than Optus’ 4G


news A real-world comparison test conducted by Lifehacker has found that Optus’ fledgling 4G mobile network does not deliver anywhere near the speeds possible on Telstra’s rival 4G infrastructure, despite claims by Optus that the telco was planning to build “the best-performing network in Australia”.

In late June, Optus kicked off a high-profile publicity campaign aimed at the mobile dominance of its arch-rival Telstra, touting the power of its fledging 4G network, which has so far only been rolled out in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. At the time, the telco said in a statement that it would “soon have the highest capacity 4G network in Australia”. It added: “The new network will deliver a series of benefits to Optus customers across Australia, including stronger network performance and customer experience with Australia’s highest capacity 4G network in metropolitan areas.”

In addition, in an interview in this morning’s Financial Review newspaper, Optus Australia chief Paul O’Sullivan talked up the company’s 4G mobile plans further, with the company to increase its mobile broadband spend from around half a billion dollars each to year on average to about $2 billion over the next two years, in a move which O’Sullivan said would deliver the company “the best-performing network in Australia”.

When the telco announced its Newcastle 4G rollout, Optus was believed to have been seeing download speeds up to 50Mbps on the 4G network, with upload speeds up to 20Mbps. It recently said the network was capable of typical download speeds ranging from 25Mbps to 87Mbps. This — on paper — compared favourably with Telstra’s network, which is theoretically capable of download speeds between 2Mbps and 40Mbps, and upload spees between 1Mbps to 10Mbps. Recent real-world tests using HTC’s 4G One XL handset on Telstra’s network in Sydney have shown speeds of around 35Mbps down and up between 15Mbps and 25Mbps.

However, real-world tests conducted in the Hunter region by Lifehacker of the 4G networks of both Optus and Telstra have shown that Telstra’s network is consistently faster — regularly achieving download speeds in excess of 30Mbps in the region, compared with Optus’ network, which topped at at close to 14Mbps. We recommend you click here to check out the full test results.

It’s not clear why Optus’ network is slower than that of Telstra’s, but there are a large number of factors which could affect the result.

Optus’ 4G network in Newcastle is based on equipment from Huawei, with the telco reported by a number of sources to be currently evaluating bids from the Chinese company and a number of other suppliers for its full 4G rollout, while Telstra has long standardised on equipment from Ericsson. It’s not known which supplier has the more powerful network equipment in practice, although both Ericsson and Huawei rely on the same wireless standards for 4G services — and the 4G networks of both Telstra and Optus use the same 1800MHz spectrum band.

Other factors may include the quality of the receiving equipment. Both Telstra and Optus are believed to use mobile broadband dongles from Sierra Wireless, although Telstra also has a number of other 4G handsets available from major vendors such as HTC and Samsung.

Another factor is the quality of the backbone links to mobile towers. All of Australia’s mobile carriers have placed a large emphasis on linking mobile towers to fibre backhaul links. However, Telstra has a large amount more infrastructure available than Optus and Vodafone, as Australia’s former monopoly telco. This factor may also be affecting the results.

I can’t say I’m surprised by Lifehacker’s results. As I’ve written several times over the past few months, Telstra’s 4G and 3G networks are currently leagues ahead of the rival infrastructure owned by Optus and Vodafone, and this is just the latest set of results to prove that.

However, given the brand new nature of Optus’ rollout, I am surprised that Telstra’s infrastructure was able to beat it so conclusively in the Hunter region, which Optus is using as the testbed deployment for its 4G services, before rolling out the speeds across the rest of Australia. It will be interesting to see if Optus can boost the strength of the network to more closely match that of Telstra before that national rollout takes place.

If it cannot, Optus may have to eat its words and walk away from Paul O’Sullivan’s claim that the telco is set to build the “best-performing network in Australia”. Because if the real-world 4G speed contrast is going to be this stark across the rest of Australia, Telstra will have an easy time proving that claim wrong. There may even, at a certain point, be some form of legal recourse that would stop Optus making such claims in public.

Image credit: Mike Swope, royalty free


    • +1

      In the absence of significant technical differences in the delivery of the wireless service, and in the absence of oversubscription (it’s a trial so, duh), the obvious problem would be backhaul. Who knows, it could even explain the numerous speed complaints of numerous Optus ADSL customers……

      • “Who knows, it could even explain the numerous speed complaints of numerous Optus ADSL customers……”

        Don’t forget HFC. Speed complaints are a universal phenomenon with Optus, not just limited to ADSL. Backhaul limitations affect all connection types.

        • Optus resellers have some great value. But they are battery destroyers. Their 3g cant handle the customers they have, and people end up spending money on more phones because they think their phone getting hot and having no reception is a shitty phone.

          Its not. Telstras 3g is freakin awesome because its constantly available. No network switching, no black areas of no reception, no being in the middle of Melbourne CBD standing under the wrong building and having no reception at all, no hot battery.

          My question is, is the network switching between 4g and 3g on optus as constant, irritating, battery destroying as the difference between their 2 and 3g networks. If it is, who gives a flying fuck how fast it is, youre never going to get to use it properly.

          I would also be happy to be shown anything that shows me that Telstras 4g and 3g switching will be as bad as optus 3 and 2g switching is. If it is, then i wont be bothering to upgrade to a 4g phone and save my money buying a high end 3g phone.

  1. You do realise you’re directly comparing a production network (Telstra) to a currently in testing network that is confined to certain areas (Optus) right?

    • Yes, but what precisely is the technical difference? Tuning in the 4G software/hardware perhaps? You would imagine that had already been done before the Newcastle network was deployed.

      • One is a production network that is carrying customer level traffic, the other is a network that is still in the process of being built and is carrying lower levels of traffic for statistical purposes.

        I’m a bit perplexed on why you seem to have the impression you can just roll networks like this out, it’s not like this is sort of equipment you buy at your local DSE and plug it in and walk away, it’s all vendor supported and requires infield testing before being placed into production. Telstra went through the same thing before they made their network publically available as well.

        How’s about this whole test is run again once Optus (or VHA) put their networks into production, then any speed differences can’t be related to things like, I don’t know, the network isn’t fully built yet.

        • We ran a speed test on a site today, VHA – LTE and achieved 88Mbps down, dual cell. We then scored consistent results with more than 40 devices connected – 5 to 20MBps single cell downstream.

          The potential is there, the impatience of the public is there as well.

          • hey Master_T,

            with respect, this is a perfect example of the kind of bullshit telcos are peddling about their mobile networks. I predict Vodafone’s actual 4G network will deliver nothing like those speeds in real-world usage.


          • Point noted.

            I make no qualms about what the network can and cant do. I certainly wont back up anyone from sales and marketing if they asked me to make a claim of the network ‘being the fastest’ or ‘being the one with the most capacity’.

            I get excited sometimes too – as we all do. I just had a meeting with the Managing Director for Samsung. He was elated that we’re trying to get back into the fray and had honest people that were willing to tell it like it is.

            If theres anything you can take from this its that you should know, that even if my ‘superiors’ up the chain like to claim stupid figures – I’ll give you an honest and direct response. I just hope that our ‘friends’ over at Optus can keep their traps shut from now on.


            Master T.

          • Dont screw people with crap reception levels is all i have to say.

            The _sole_ reason im not an Optus customer is your awful awful reception thresholds.

            I await with bated breath to see if Telstra and Optus 4g introduce a further extension of the “4g reception too low, switch to 3… no, 2.5g… bugger, 3g reception now stronger switch to 3g… no, no reception at all. Lets give it a minute and try again…. Oh theres 2.5g access lets use tha… no, we have 4g now!” (confused? Yep, thats how my S2 gets when i have an optus sim card in it.

            As opposed to Telstra “Lets use 3g.” “Yep still 3g reception lets stay there shall we?” “Yep still reception” – with all of the trappings of a stable wireless connection, i.e. no overheating mobile, no battery drain, no ‘you have no network connection’ when using say.. facebook.

          • Hi Master T, which site did you run the test from? Must be from one of VHA MTX, or in their test just remember they do not have proper test lab…

        • hey Tezz, in fact I will be constantly testing the 4G networks of Optus and Vodafone as they are rolled out, just as I have their 3G networks. This example by Lifehacker is just the first test we’ve seen so far.

          • Understand, all I’m saying is you can’t really make a direct comparision at this point as one is still in build, ie. saying one is much faster as per your headline. Presuming you leave enough of a gap to the next test to allow further parts of the build to completed then you “should” see better results.

            Regardless, once Optus, VHA, or whoever puts their 4G network into production then by all means if one is faster, slower, suffers latency, etc, proclaim it, because that is the network that they are putting customers onto and that is real world experience.

          • Tezz,

            Optus is soliciting customers onto its 4G network now. Sure, it’s still “in build” or “testing” or whatever, but there is absolutely no reason not to head out to Newcastle and test it, as Lifehacker, to their great credit, did. Sure, there could be mitigating factors in the mix, but the facts are that as it stands, Optus’ 4G network is currently slower than Telstra’s 4G network and that fact is worth publicising.


          • I think this is a futile discussion, how’s about we wait until the next tests are run and the various 4G networks can start to have a performance trend done, and you might be able to headline an article “Optus/VHA 4G closing the gap on Telstra” :)

      • Network tuning is done after deployment. It can take months depending on nearby signal, interference woes and even little things like connectivity of flagship devices.

        Its not as simple as you make it out to be, it is however – something that does take time. I dont know why Paul had claimed this, another couple of engineering teams from brisbane left to sydney today from our offices to help with the rollout.

        Its not just backhaul that is slowing the process tho, sometimes you need more than a phat pipe ;)

        IPv6 is making some waves internally at the moment – theres alot of devices that dont seem to want to play ball …

        • It is sometimes.

          Judging by the fact their 3g levels are shitty im guessing Optus never bothered to tune anything after installation.

  2. Also:
    Define the parameters of “Best Performing”
    He might mean Optus’ return on investment.. spend stuff all on the project, market the crap out of it … Profit!


  3. ” theoretically capable of download speeds between 2Mbps and 40Mbps”
    Incorrect – those speeds are conservative real-world estimates.
    The true theoretical maximum for Telstra 4G LTE are as follows:
    QLD, WA, SA, NT: 151.2Mbps (15MHz Bandwidth)
    VIC, NSW: 100.8Mbps (10MHz Bandwidth)

    Fastest real world Telstra 4G test has achieved just over 88Mbps in QLD.

      • All you need is to have this speed with 4G is:

        Locate the tower in your back yard.
        Clear all obstructions to vision for a couple of kilometres.
        Become a insanely good sniper.
        Shoot anyone entering the cleared radius with a mobile phone.
        Sounds like a bush only solution.

        • Everyone seems to forget one component of this.

          You need a 4g capable mobile phone first.

  4. You fail to acknowledge their prospects for expanding their services. Currently, I’m pretty sure Optus is using less of the 1800 Mhz band than Telstra.

    They are both, along with Vodafone, likely to purchase the same amount of spectrum in the sales in the next couple of years, however, their purchase of VividWireless has given them more spectrum than the Telstra and Vodafone. I think they bought 100 Mhz of spectrum in the 2300 Mhz band and will soon integrate into the rest of their network.

    This would be why they would soon have the highest capacity network. This is of course assuming that they upgrade their backhaul which I’m sure they would do. They’re not that stupid, are they?

    • True blah, except currently very few, if any, handsets use 2300 for LTE….VividWireless has special and expensive contracts for special batches of baseband chips on equipment afaik.

      Im willing to give Optus a few months to tune theirs up, but I’m predicting it’ll STILL be lower quality and slower than Telstra, by a decent amount.

      I hope I’m wrong- I’d love to see some proper Telstra competition in the mobile sphere on quality, coverage and speed. But I just think this is too much of a knee-jerk from Optus with not enough backhaul planned.

  5. Optus will ALWAYS = crap 3G / crap 4G / crap ADSL / crap HFC / crap basic voice services.

  6. The issue is most likely to do with a lack of capacity on the backhaul here. Take a look at such forums such as Whirlpool and read the performance woes of those who are Optus and Optus Wholesale customers!

    I suffered personally with performance of a naked DSL service from Optus Wholesale. Once I churned my speeds improved dramatically. My performance issues occurred only during peak times so it was not a problem isolated to my house.

    It all boils down to how quickly additional bandwidth is provisioned to circuits that need it. Optus seem to be much slower at doing this for whatever reason.

    • There is nothing to stop the NBN wholesaling access to any carrier for any purpose, and no doubt carriers will be using the NBN for their mobile backhaul as the NBN gets rolled out.

    • All we need is negative publicity because NBN users are only getting 99 out of their 100mbits because NBNCo is selling backhaul to Optus, heh.

      Im sure Optus can find backhaul elsewhere.

      • I don’t think you get how this whole wholesaling (pun intended) from NBN Co works. When a service provider pays for a pipe of X size, they get a pipe of X size. If NBN Co doesn’t have the bandwidth to cover what they’re wholesaling at a particular POI they upgrade their own bandwidth.

        In other words, if someone isn’t getting the full bandwidth they’re paying for from a particular service provider, it’s got nothing to do with the other service providers wholesaling from NBN Co at that POI, it’s got to do with the service provider that customer is using not having purchased enough capacity.

  7. As much as I’m not a fan of Singtel Optus, let’s give them a few months to iron out the problems, expand coverage and sign up some customers – and then take some more speed tests.

  8. NBN Co will likely be used for the more remote size than Newcastle. Optus is only using a maximum of 10MHz paired 1.8GHz band even if more is available. Its hard to use figure when in testing stage. How do you know they haven’t scaled it back to 5MHz paired at some stage and conveniently a reporter just happen to be on the spot testing.

    Just as a note: When comparing 98MHz TDD spectrum its worth about 40MHz FDD spectrum. They also have 100MHz of 3.4GHz in certain areas on top of that which will be useful one day.

    To think all 3 will come out of the next auction with the same spectrum (tell him he’s dreaming), Optus may only go after 10MHz of the high band as they have 2.3/3.4GHz. Probably go nuts after 700MHz as they are spectrum dry for <1GHz. VHA have 35MHz paired in the high and low density areas, good middle band and not a lot of interest in the country so maybe 700MHz might be above the price range. We will see by the end of April 2013 unless ACMA delay the auction some more.

  9. I have been tesitng Optus 4g throughout Newcastle, Lake Maquarie and the Hunter.

    I have done many speed test and seen the network max out at 60mb and uploads max out at 20mb, this was outside in Mayfield West.

    Also seen 60mb in Cameron Park 2285.

    Latency is also nice at around 25ms.

    I have been most impressed so far!

    See my results here

    Cheers Breaker

  10. Isn’t the main crux of the article, that Optus are falsely claiming a superior network, entirely valid?

    How can Optus declare game over when A) they are yet to be tested in the real world and B) even in the pre-release stage they have failed to match or better Telstra?

    Perhaps it’s Optus who should buck up until they actually have the evidence to support their claims of superiority? In the mean time, if they fail to do so, then it’s more than reasonable for the IT world to put their claims to the sword should they not stand up to testing.

  11. In the testing phase, they can do all kinds of dodgy stuff, such as prescheduling to boost the ping delay. If speeds are that bad during testing, I wonder how it’ll be when they turned it on for commercial. Imagine sharing that kind of speed with 10 or more LTE customers.

  12. HO HUM what’s news. Two things come to mind. First, life is too short to drink the house wine. Second, go for gold and top shelf. The fun has just begun folks.

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