Telstra tests 4G network up to 90Mbps


news The nation’s largest telco Telstra has revealed it has tested its 4G mobile network at speeds of up to 90Mbps and will shortly introduce a smartphone and Wi-Fi dongle that can theoretically access the network at peak speeds even higher — up to 150Mbps — although the network is not yet capable of those speeds.

Real-world tests of Telstra’s 4G network have shown it is consistently capable of reaching speeds up to 40Mbps using current end user mobile devices such as smartphones and USB dongles, but in practice, especially in congested areas such as the central business districts of major cities, speeds are usually significantly lower and often comparable to ADSL2+ broadband speeds up to 24Mbps. Optus’ 4G network has been able to reach speeds of up to 60Mbps, although it usually performs similarly to Telstra’s network in real-world conditions.

However, in a new post on Telstra’s Exchange blog this afternoon, the company’s executive director of networks & access technologies Mike Wright said the network was theoretically capable of much more.

“This week we announced that Telstra continues to keep on top of the wireless technology curve and will launch two ‘Category 4’, or CAT4 devices, for use on our 4G network s later this year – a wi-fi dongle and a handset,” Wright wrote. “CAT 4 devices are rated as capable of 150Mbps peak device downlink speeds. This compares with the CAT3 devices which are rated at 100Mbps peak device downlink speeds.”

Wright said Telstra currently advised its customers that the typical download speed on its 4G network with a CAT3 device was between 2Mbps and 40Mbps, depending on a range of factors.

“In our laboratory testing for the new Cat4 devices, we have seen peak device speeds of well over 100Mbps,” he wrote. So far in live field trials in Perth and Esperance where we have 20MHz of contiguous spectrum, we’ve seen device speeds of over 90Mbps, however the speed a customer typically experiences will be across a broad range, due to the factors I explained above. Suffice to say though, the download speeds a customer experiences using a CAT4 device can be faster than those obtained using a CAT3 device, all other things being equal.”

Wright said for customers to take best advantage of a CAT4 device, that device needed to be combined with a 4G network with over 20MHz of contiguous spectrum — representing the widest bandwidth that LTE can use ahead of LTE-Advanced technologies which have not yet been implemented yet.

“In some areas of WA, including Perth and Esperance Telstra already has 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 1800MHz band so customers in these areas will be the first to be able to experience the speed advantage of a CAT4 device,” said Wright.

According to the executive, in many cases, customers wouldn’t actually see any difference in speeds on the mobile devices they were using. “In reality, as a customer your speed is more likely to be limited by the source of the data you are downloading, so in many cases you are not going to notice too much if you’re downloading at 20Mbps or 60Mbps,” said Wright. “High def video will still stream well on both speeds, websites will appear to load almost instantaneously.”

However, the executive said that the biggest advantage that faster speeds brought customers was extra capacity.

“Each generation of wireless technology is more efficient than the one that precedes it,” he wrote. “Much of the reason for this is that as wireless technologies are developed they are designed to deliver faster speeds. Now the faster you can deliver data, the more capacity you have on your network. To use an analogy, not only can vehicles move faster down a freeway, we are also adding more lanes to the freeway. The two combine to give a more consistent and satisfactory customer experience. Increased speed also increases capacity because it means that more of our customers can be on the network at one time, and each have the speeds to support what they are doing.”

The news comes as Telstra and Optus are in somewhat of an arms race with respect to the speed, coverage and devices available on their 4G network. Optus, for example, recently rapidly expanded its coverage in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and launched its 4G network in Adelaide. Tomorrow, the company’s Australian chief Paul O’Sullivan is expected to give updated figures on 4G take-up on the telco’s network at its regular financial briefing. However, in this race, Telstra is clearly out in front. The telco revealed last week that it already had 1.5 million 4G devices on its network — including some 500,000 iPhone 5 units sold in the second half of 2012.

Vodafone has not yet launched its 4G network in Australia, although it has pledged to do so this year.

Very nice, Mr Wright, very nice. We are very impressed with how Telstra keeps on pushing the technical boundaries on its 4G network :) Vodafone … you paying attention? Anyone still awake over there? Anyone? Oh, well.

Image credit: Telstra


  1. I wonder how long it’ll take before the likes of Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones cite this test as an example of the triumph of private enterprise, and how wasteful and unnecessary the NBN is.

    • Indeed. The quoted figures are almost an invitation to comparison with the NBN. Of course, speed is by no means everything.

      My parents are forced to rely on Telstra wireless for Internet despite their next door neighbour a few hundred metres away being hooked up to a much closer exchange and capable of getting ADSL. It’s not exactly the most crowded of country towns but the wireless takes a total nosedive in performance in the evenings when everyone is using it. And then there’s the small matter of no matter how much wireless speeds apparently improve, you still have to pay through the nose for a pathetic amount of data.

      • Look at what Bahrain and Viva are doing with 4G LTE and the speeds they’re achieving.

        That is a pretty clear indication that wireless can compete with the NBN and it being mobile people are more likely to purchase that as a service so they can be connected anywhere and not be tethered to the house only for lovely high speeds.

        • There is a hint in the article which explains why it’s not a great idea to use only wireless. Let me point it out.

          Wright said Telstra currently advised its customers that the typical download speed on its 4G network with a CAT3 device was between 2Mbps and 40Mbps, depending on a range of factors.

          I use ADSL when I’m at home and 3G when I’m out and about. The 3G is slower but sufficient when I’m out, but if I tried to use it exclusively when I’m at home, I’d be pulling my hair out (and saying goodbye to any money I have remaining). I don’t have 4G, but considering how much you get on plans, it wouldn’t be enough. I’m hitting 100GB roughly a month (over 2 people), doing that on 4G is possible, but too expensive.

        • Hey PointZeroOneIQ, how about you get a 4G about and download some windows updates. Now, no crying when they charge you a couple of hundred dollars for the excess data usage.

          • But while we’re on the topic of pricing and windows updates. Highest quota you can get from Telstra is 15gb for $95 per month. When was the last time a ‘couple’ of windows updates were over 15gb or when was the last times the updates for an entire month were over 15gb?

          • @PointZeroOne

            Hey, you wanna use 4G exclusively and pay $95 a month? Go ahead.

            Me? I’ll stick with my 9Mbps ADSL and 200GB a month (80 of which I use myself) while I wait for the NBN….

            You cannot simply state 4G is making the NBN obsolete as that is completely incorrect. Speeds are very, very, VERY far from the only important thing for internet services. If you can’t see that….well, I don’t like personal attacks, so I’ll leave it there.

          • Thats a non issue. The battery life sucking 4G chips will leave you with a battery in need of recharge long before you can send yourself bankrupt with over use charges.

            Well a non issue for the 4G smart phone users…

          • @Tom

            I have 2GB quota on my mobile. At 90Mbps, or 11MBps, it would take me 3 minutes to blow through my quota at full speed….my battery on 4G lasts 7 hours….

            Yeah, I’m thinking battery is the non-issue here compared to quota. Even 15GB would take only 25 mins. As I said, that’s full speed….but then that’s what we’re talking about here isn’t it? Speed.

    • You know we could have had 20-40Mbps FTTN years ago if the LNP under John Howard had of listened to industry advice when selling the publicly owned, vertically integrated monopoly we know as Telstra and separated it into a retail and wholesale company!

      By leaving it as one company we got a belligerent 900 pound gorilla that had absolutely no incentive to upgrade it’s PSTN CAN’s and every incentive to stifle any competition (see the cable wars from the 90’s as a perfect example of how how Telstra acts when its monopoly is threatened!).

    • Too much variability in wireless.

      Weather and the number of users on it can drop the speed considerably, and considering physical limits of fibre haven’t been reached yet (the record for it current stands at 1.05 Petabit/s), I don’t think either of your conjectures (obsolete and/or compete) actually hold for a fixed system.

      It’s great news for the mobile brigade though, and if Telstra can keep their prices up the speeds may well hold up for a good while :)

  2. 90mbps? WOW, like that’s very near NBN speed. Someone should tell Turnbull so that he can remind Telstra they are wasting their time… Remember according to him everything you need to do can be done on 50-60mbps:

    “That type of bandwidth is more than adequate to cater for every conceivable application that a residential user would need. To go from 50 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second in a residential context would be imperceptible; the user experience would be no different. You would not be able to tell the difference because there are simply not the services and the applications to take advantage of that higher speed”

    yep 90mbps is just much too extravagant…

    • Yes agreed HC…

      Where are the apps for every mobile to require such speeds… my (Gordon like) 2mbps is enough for me and ergo… everyone else anywhere, forever, amen.

      These ‘script kiddies’ only want such blinding speeds to download their movies and porn.

      After all, 50% of the nation will only ever want/need 12mbps (as stated on page whatever in the corp plan) so any better will create social inequality…

      Ooh and let’s not forget… before roads there were no roads.

      • LOL. If I was a coffee drinker I would have spat it all over my monitor :-)

  3. 9 Mbps, divided by 8 to convert from bits to bytes comes in at 1.125 MB/s. Accounting for TCP/IP overhead and such we can say that 1 MB/s is about right.

    Telstra’s cheapest NextG plan is $39.95 for 1 GB, which amounts to $39.95 for 1000 seconds. Therefore, one minute of that speed amounts to about $2.40. At the best value deal, 15 GB, we get $109.95. $109.95 for 15,000 seconds, or $0.44 per minute. Comparatively, it’s a bargain, but it’s $26.4 per hour, above the national minimum wage of $15.96.

    In other words, the resources required by Telstra to produce this product, financially, structurally, physically and in every way they need to, for providing that service to a single subscriber exceed the ability of a single employee.

  4. High speed 4G. Excellent. It provides a great portable option.

    Right up until contention drops the performance to less than a third. And the quota allocation means usage at such suicidal speeds will result in excess/ shaping within a matter of hours.

    And then you hit a high congestion area and performance plateaus out. Assuming you’re in an area that’s been upgraded.

    4G is an excellent adenda and partner to FTTH. The two work together to provide pretty much the best outcome there is.

    It’s not now, nor is it likely to ever be a better alternative to high-speed, high-capacity ubiquitous access.

  5. I have constant problems getting 3G data to work on Telstra’s network around Sydney CBD and on my commute from the South Coast. I guess I’m little dubious that the 4G network won’t soon get congested too.

    • I just noticed your name “Abu Camel”. Good to here you have 3G and 4G, but I think you may be taking the piss.

  6. Telstra is starting to roll out lte in the 2100mhz band- only a couple of test towers so far i think.

  7. I really don’t care how fast their network is – without realistic data plans, speed is completely irrelevant. I would be quite content with half a mbps – if that speed was consistent for the month and not throttled once the pitiful data cap is blown. Incidently, their claimed throttled speed of 64kbps is a farce. I live well away from any big city on a shared property with no landine, NextG is my only option, and I have sat here and scanned packets coming down when throttled – actual speeds are closer to 1-2kbps, sometimes as bad as 300*bits*ps. It is completely unusable. Unthrottled I get performance close to what’s advertised so it’s not a geographic issue. This connection speed nonsense is just bollocks propaganda that has no realistic benefit for anyone.

    So whoever from Telstra is reading – GIVE US REAL DATA PLANS AND NOT HYPERSPEED. You seriously think I won’t be dropping Telstra like a steaming turd as soon as an alternative is available? Get real folks.

  8. After reading this article, I switch on LTE on my HTC One XL and did a used the app to a Telstra server in Perth (I was in East Perth at the time)

    96.20 Mbps down, 35.86 Mbps up, 39ms ping (with 4/5 bars indicated signal strength).

    Pretty impressive, but does it make me want the NBN any less? Not a chance.. for every advance that is made with wireless speeds, fibre will make an even bigger one!

  9. Get a call from one of our staff asking for his wireless dongle to be upgraded , because at 5 pm everyday it becomes unusable…

    Get a call from our CFO who thinks we have issues with our vpn / webmail , whilst he is holidaying at a busy beach town …

    Had to explain to both that it’s conjestion , too many people trying to use wireless in that area…

    The same people who think that wireless is a reason we shouldn’t have an nbn , would be the same ones complaining that a wireless tower was being built near their house if we actually went they way they wanted.

    Wireless is a fallback for when you are out and about or can’t get a better connection

  10. I don’t really understand this. My 4G is faster than I’d ever really use on my mobile with a 2GB quota. Even a 15GB on mobile broadband I’d chew through if I really used it properly instead of incidentally.

    Why not put money into EXTENDING the 4G footprint….oh, that’s right, they can’t because they don’t have any spectrum yet.

    This is just Telstra trying to shout alot about something 95% of people will never truly use until or IF data caps raise significantly. It’s unnecessary. And I’d say it likely is a calculated play by Telstra to continue the ongoing “comparison” with FTTH and the NBN.

  11. Well you need a high peek speed so when it is extremely congested and you are down to 1% of peek you still get a bad connection, as opposed to a terrible connection.

    • @SMEMatt

      That’d be great if it worked that way, but it is entirely dependent on the backhaul to the 4G towers. If it’s the same as the 3G towers…..then you end up with same speed on 3G as 4G when it’s highly congested. Only advantage is occasional peaking higher than 20Mbps. I get 5Mbps on 4G in Sydney CBD at 5pm. I get 6.5Mbps on HSPA+ at same time and same place….

      We’ve no info on what backhaul Telstra provides to their 4G towers….or if they even SHARE backhaul with the 3G equipment on the towers.

        • @Tinman_au

          Yes, I’m well aware of spectral efficiency and capacity issues. But, as demonstrated by this Lifehacker article:

          It would make little difference if the spectrum capacity was 100MBps or 1Gbps, when the actual BACKHAUL to these sites is 100-200Mbps. THAT was my point. That’s a contention ratio dozens of times higher than ADSL. In fact, its’ higher than contention on Optus’ HFC and THAT’s appalling.

          Spectrum is great (and 700MHz auction will greatly improve the capacities) but the fact is, the backhaul is the problem half the time.

    • No you don’t. You just need to use the right type of network, for the job.

      Congestion is a consequence of heavy usage, either due to high cell occupancy, or high utilisation within backhaul. In this respect 4G is the same as 3G, or EDGE; it’s not whether the cell and handset can operate at high speed, it’s whether the rest of the network can handle it.

      Which is, exactly, exactly why 4G is an awesome associative connectivity option, and shouldn’t be confused for an alternative to fixed-line.

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