news Optus has revealed that it has rapidly expanded its 4G coverage in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, as the SingTel subsidiary races to catch up with the more widespread coverage offered by Australia’s largest 4G network operated by Telstra.
Optus first extended its 4G network to Brisbane and the Gold Coast in late October, stating at the time that it had switched on its first 4G sites in the Brisbane central business district and Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast, adding to its existing coverage zones in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Newcastle. At that stage, the company had only a handful of sites in each location – just four at Surfer’s Paradise, for example.
However, in a new post on the company’s blog this week, its managing director of its Networks division Guenther Ottendorfer noted that the company had conducted an extremely rapid expansion of the company’s 4G network in the region over the past several months and now had more than 100 4G sites across Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“After a successful launch of Optus 4G in selected areas of Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Perth, I’m pleased to report that our Queensland networks team have been hard at work to deliver new sites ahead of schedule,” the executive wrote. “We had Optus 4G ready just in time for the fast paced action of the V8 Supercars tearing through the streets of the Gold Coast at speeds that can only be reserved for the racetrack. In many ways, the Optus 4G network has some things in common with race cars – we’ve seen so many people doing speed tests on the Optus 4G network, amazed at how fast that dial starts redlining!”
Ottendorfer also noted that the company had also completed major upgrades in the region to deliver a better experience for those only using 3G devices on the company’s 900Mhz 3G network.
The news comes just weeks after Optus confirmed it had switched on its first 4G sites for customers in Adelaide – with the service hitting the South Australian city days before Christmas.
At the time, Ottendorfer noted: “The response from customers in other capital cities has been so positive we’ve accelerated the rollout of 4G to Adelaide, several months ahead of schedule.” The company’s 4G network was at that stage live in selected areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide CBD and the Greater Newcastle and Hunter regions, and will be extending to other major metropolitan areas as Optus 4G is progressively introduced throughout the mobile network.
“It’s a very busy time for Optus at the moment, with intensive planning and upgrade works underway across Australia,” the executive added this week. “We’ve just switched on 4G at four sites in Adelaide and are gearing up to introduce Optus 4G to Canberra, so be sure to stay tuned for more details on those!”
In early September, when Optus opened its 4G network in Sydney, Perth and Newcastle, the company had some 600 4G towers located around Australia. However, it has been rapidly expanding that network. In comparison, Telstra said in May that it had some 1,000 base stations covering two-thirds of Australia’s population, and was planning to activate a further 1,000 by mid-2013. Vodafone has yet to launch its 4G network in Australia.
Tests performed by Delimiter on Optus’ 4G network in Sydney have shown the the brand new next-generation currently performs on par with legacy ADSL2+ broadband in terms of raw download speeds and latency, and offers significantly better upload speeds.
I continue to be stunned by how fast Optus is deploying its 4G network around Australia. There is no doubt that Telstra still has the lead in 4G coverage nationally – a lead it capitalised on strongly through signing up hundreds of thousands of customers to its new infrastructure – but Optus is doing its damndest right now catch up. Given how slowly Optus usually reacts to developments in the telecommunications market, I can only view its moves in the 4G space as remarkable – it’s as if the every-enthusiastic Ottendorfer has been given an absolute mandate to take the 4G fight to Telstra and obliterate the laggard Vodafone in the process.
I’m personally still on Telstra’s 4G network, but if Optus continues to push this hard over the next year developing its mobile infrastructure, I will be sorely tempted to re-evaluate my contract. Telstra is never cheap, after all, and has recently gotten more expensive – if Optus can provide a comparable 4G service and if its 3G network remains decent, switching may suddenly become a more viable option.