Optus is preparing 4G launches early next year in Adelaide and Canberra while simultaneously making enhancements to its existing 3G network, according to Optus managing director of networks, Guenther Ottendorfer.
Optus has already launched 4G in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth and parts of Brisbane.
Optus will increase the number of 4G LTE sites in Brisbane from 50 today to 100 next year, Ottendorfer said today at a media event in Sydney. Optus hopes to accelerate its LTE rollout to Adelaide and launch 4G service there in the first half of the year, he said.
Canberra will get 4G in March or April next year, Ottendorfer said. However, he said the network will use TD-LTE technology, which is currently compatible with fewer 4G devices. Optus doesn’t have enough spectrum there to support the FD-LTE technology used for the rest of its 4G network, he said.
The majority of Optus customers are still on 3G, so the carrier has been making upgrades to that network as well, Ottendorfer said.
Optus is upgrading the network to 3G+ using HSPA+ technology, which currently supports speeds up to 21 Mbps. The carrier so far has upgraded more than 3000 sites to 3G+, Ottendorfer said.
Adelaide will get 3G+ “as a precursor” to the 4G rollout, he said. A 3G+ upgrade will come to Wollongong and some Queensland metropolitan areas around the same time, he said.
The carrier is also rapidly improving in-building coverage of the 3G+ network by using lower band frequencies, Ottendorfer said. He estimated the network covered 87 per cent of indoor locations in metropolitan areas as of early November. “In the next 12 months, we will increase it to more than 95 per cent,” he said.
In addition, Ottendorfer said Optus will be testing a cloud-based packet core technology from a startup called Connectem. The technology will bolster network performance during “peak events” such as sports and big festivals.
“Currently, packet core are standalone systems,” Ottendorfer said. The Connectem service would virtualise the software, he said.
Spectrum to be made available in April’s Digital Dividend auction is “very important for Australia,” Ottendorfer said. The 700 MHz spectrum “has great potential for reaching rural Australia.”
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was preparing auction rules last month to be released, including reserve prices which are the minimum amounts a company must pay to participate in the auction. However, Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy directed ACMA to give him the opportunity to set the reserve prices.
Telstra and Optus, but possibly not Vodafone Hutchison Australia, are expected to bid in the auction. A Vodafone no-show could reduce the amount of revenue raised by the government, making it more important to set high reserve prices.
Optus said it is preparing itself to participate, but it needs to "know the rules" and "know the business case,” Ottendorfer said. “It needs to make sense for us.”
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