UPDATED: 4G in Australia: The state of the nation
- 08 October, 2013 11:15
Updated 8 October 2013: The top three Australian carriers are spending billions upgrading their networks to high-speed 4G LTE services. Rollout of new plans is expected to intensify through the year.
The No. 1 telco currently has a head start on 4G rollout, having launched LTE services in September 2011. In October, the telco reported that it has connected 3.2 million 4G devices.
At the end of June, the Telstra 4G network covered 66 per cent of the Australian population, including all the capital cities and several regional locations. The telco has announced plans to add more regional areas this year so that it covers 85 per cent of the population by Christmas. In October, Telstra switched on its 2500th 4G base station, in Young NSW.
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.
Building out the 4G LTE network was a major piece of Telstra’s $3.6 billion spend in fiscal-year 2012. Over the next two years, Telstra has said it plans to invest $500 million, including on its mobile network.
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
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