news In an announcement this week, Optus revealed that it had been successful in connecting Australia’s first Long Term Evolution (LTE) call in the 700MHz ‘Digital Dividend’ spectrum band.
This signals the start of Optus’ 700MHz LTE trials in Bendigo, Victoria with its technology partner Huawei, in its bid to deliver faster mobile broadband services with superior coverage across existing networks. With this, Australia moves a step closer in Long Term Evolution, a key milestone in Optus’ technology goal to give its customers lower latency and swifter wireless data speeds.
This trial will help Optus to estimate the speed and coverage of 700MHz technology in comparison with other LTE technologies. The technology trials started this week shortly after Optus became the first Australian carrier to be allowed access to the Digital Dividend spectrum. Another significant element of the trial involves the facility to test various current Optus applications and services, including smartphone apps, IPTV, mobile TV services, HD video conferencing and low-latency gaming inside an LTE environment.
The trial is being held in Bendigo as analogue television services have already been turned off in that area. The 700MHz band currently delivers LTE services in North America and will also be utilised in the Asia-Pacific region, because it offers coverage at greater distances from mobile base stations than many of the current mobile standards offered in Australia.
The LTE standard will provide remarkably faster mobile broadband services to consumers and enable telecom companies to use capacity more resourcefully on their networks. 4G services are gradually being launched internationally, particularly in the US, where several major telecom companies are currently pushing strongly for the new standard.
Günther Ottendorfer, Managing Director of Optus Networks, said that Optus would be the first telecommunications provider to test a range of commercially available consumer devices such as tablets, smartphones and 4G Wi-Fi hotspots on a 700MHz 4G network. “Optus is using these trials to understand how consumers can maximise the benefits of a modern LTE network,” Ottendorfer explained.
The tests will also confirm non-interference of the LTE in the 700MHz band with digital TV broadcast services after the spectrum is auctioned in late 2012 and analogue television signals are switched off nationwide by the end of 2014.
Peter Rossi, Huawei Australia CTO, said that the LTE trial would help evaluate the performance of next-generation mobile technology in the prelude to the 700MHz spectrum auctions in 2012. “Huawei is the world’s leading LTE vendor, with 18 commercial networks deployed globally, and our largest R&D teams dedicated to LTE innovation,” said Rossi.
Optus plans to have its first services available in the areas of Port Stephens, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie starting from April 2012. With increasing availability of devices, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne will follow by mid-2012. Optus will announce the second phase of its rollout in coming months.
Good to see Optus progressing with its LTE plans here, but of course the telco is still some way behind Telstra, which already has commercial LTE/4G services available in some areas. It will be interesting to see how Optus’s 700MHz rollout compares technically with the 1800MHz rollout being used by Telstra.
Image credit: Optus. Opinion/analysis contributed by Renai LeMay