blog It’s only been a couple of months since mobile carrier Vodafone started claiming it’s got Australia’s fastest mobile broadband network, and although our tests show it has some basis to the claim, it appears it’s not a claim Telstra is going to take sitting down. The Financial Review newspaper reports this morning that the big T is testing mobile broadband speeds up to 450Mbps. Yup. You read that right. Half a gig. The newspaper reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“According to a Telstra strategy briefing obtained by The Australian Financial Review the company plans to use a technology called “carrier aggregation” to deliver peak mobile download speeds of 450 megabits per second in certain conditions.”
Now look, I’m sure Telstra is trialling a variety of new technologies on its network. It always is. And I’m sure that it does have something like 450Mbps on its long-term roadmap. However, right now, I’m forced to be a bit skeptical about this claim. To get 450Mbps services to users is going to require some extreme engineering and network design effort from Telstra, not the least of which would be ensuring it has sufficient backhaul connections to all of its towers. 450Mbps may be on the roadmap, but if so, it’s likely quite a ways away, and it’s also quite likely to be highly variable — there is no way Telstra will be able to guarantee anything like 450Mbps to all users, all of the time. This is simply the nature of wireless networking.
I also want to address a couple of other issues in the AFR’s article this morning. There are just some factual and contextual issues in there that are worth correcting. For example, the AFR claims Labor’s NBN policy would have offered residents 100Mbps speeds. Correction: The speeds offered would be up to 1Gbps. The article also makes the claim that Telstra’s supposed 450Mbps network would allow users to download a HD move when in two minutes, and broadly compares the Coalition and Labor NBN policies to Telstra’s 450Mbps plans.
Well, yes, they are, in some ways, comparable. However, it’s also about quota. Right now, the maximum mobile quota Telstra offers is 15GB. If you download a full HD movie over its mobile network, that’s going to knock probably 2GB of quota out in two minutes (assuming 1080p). This is one of the reason fixed-line networking is so important — because mobile networks just do not have the capacity to take over the quota needs currently served by fixed-line broadband. Quota is just a lot more expensive on mobile networks. I’m really tired of commentators in Australia conflating these two technologies, which are broadly complementary and usually do not compete. At this stage, most Australians have both fixed-line broadband functionality at home and work and a smartphone with mobile broadband functionality. I don’t see this complementary situation changing anytime soon.
Image credit: Telstra