Telstra’s rivals have issued a muted reaction to the company’s plans announced overnight to upgrade its flagship Next G mobile network to the Long-Term Evolution family of fourth generation (4G) wireless technologies, pointing out they were also in trials of the standard.
“VHA completed successful LTE trials in the 1800MHz band with Huawei towards the end of 2010,” a spokesperson for the telco — which operates the Vodafone and ‘3’ brands — said. Telstra’s new LTE functionality will also be based on the 1800MHz band.
“Results achieved download speeds of up to 73Mbps, under test conditions, paving the way for the introduction of LTE technology as part of our future roadmap,” the spokesperson said, although they did not disclose at which point the technology would hit the Vodafone and ‘3’ networks.
In a separate communication, Optus’ director of its mobile network, Andrew Smith, gave a little more detail about the SingTel subsidiary’s plans. Optus today revealed it had commenced phase 2 of its own LTE trial and would continue in 2011. Smith said Optus was pleased with the learnings from “phase 1” of the trial, especially around the reduced latency and achievable data speeds for wireless broadband – however no details of the actual speeds achieved were revealed.
“Phase 2 of the Optus LTE trial looks at a wider operational area for testing, as well as performance under load and the data interworking with the 3G and 2G networks with LTE,” he said. “We are expanding the pilot trial area to Sydney’s eastern suburbs which will operate in the 1800MHz band”.
When asked about a deadline for the roll-out,Smith said in a statement Optus was pondering what could be the best moment. “Optus continues to evaluate the optimum timing for rolling out commercial LTE services. A major consideration is the wide-spread availability of quality LTE devices in the appropriate spectrum bands,” he said.
Smith concluded Optus continued to fully utilise its spectrum resources, through the acquisitions it made in 2010, when it bought 10MHz of paired spectrum in the 2100MHz band — for use in metropolitan Australia — and new regional spectrum licences, which added a combination of 10MHz and 5MHz of paired spectrum in the 2100MHz band at almost 1000 sites across regional Australia.
Research house Ovum today said Telstra’s moves would put Optus under pressure, with analyst Nicole McCormick saying in a statement the announced launch of the new 4G network was ahead of previous speculations. “Telstra will launch its LTE network six to 12 months earlier than expected, based on their earlier indications,” she said.
McCormick concluded she believed the move would pressure Optus to respond, as she believed the roll-out of the 4G network would not only imply retaining high-end corporate mobile broadband consumers for Telstra, but would also pose the threat of poaching some of Optus’ high-end users as well.
“While Telstra’s Next G network advantage has been gradually eroded over the past couple of years, its first-to-market LTE launch provides the carrier with another point of differentiation against its competitors,” she said.