Updated 21 March 2014: The top three Australian carriers are spending billions upgrading their networks to high-speed 4G LTE services. Here is the latest information on each telco's progress.
Telstra reported in December 2013 that it had switched on its 3500th base station and that its 4G network now covers 19.5 million Australians, or 85 per cent of the population.
In addition to the capital cities, the Telstra 4G network covers more than 300 regional towns. In October, the telco reported that it had connected 3.2 million 4G devices.
The No. 1 telco has a large head start on 4G rollout, having launched LTE services in September 2011.
Telstra has stated plans in 2014 to turn to upgrading the network to even faster LTE-Advanced technology and deploying new spectrum to add more capacity, speed and reliability.
Telstra had before said it would invest $500 million over 2013 and 2014, including on its mobile network.
Telstra operates frequency-division (FD) LTE on the 1800MHz spectrum band. It currently has 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and 15MHz in Sydney and Melbourne. By comparison, Vodafone Hutchison Australia has 20MHz in all five cities, but its coverage is limited to those cities.
Telstra spent $1.3 billion in April's Digital Dividend auction, taking most of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum available. It bought 2x20MHz of the 700MHz spectrum and 2x40MHz of the 2.5GHz. The spectrum is expected to increase the carrier's 4G coverage and capacity.
In February, Telstra announced plans to refarm low-frequency 900MHz spectrum for 4G. The telco is testing that first in north Brisbane and considering deployments in other regional areas. When they are released in the future, 4G devices supporting LTE Advanced will be able to combine the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for extra capacity.
Telstra is also currently testing LTE Broadcast technology, which would allow the telco to broadcast one video stream to multiple people at the same time. That approach would be more efficient than the current method in which video is streamed separately to each customer.
Some analysts say Telstra’s early rollout of LTE likely will keep the telco ahead of the competition.
“With accelerated investment in the LTE network, we believe Telstra’s mobile rivals will find it difficult to challenge Telstra’s network superiority,” Ovum analyst David Kennedy said recently. “They will need to pursue strategies as `alternative’ providers to Telstra.”
Next page: Optus and Vodafone 4G