Optus has flagged a $500 million investment in its mobile network, with plans to both upgrade its 3G network and roll out a new 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.
At a briefing in Sydney, Optus chief executive, Paul O’Sullivan, announced the new network, which will operate over the telco’s existing 1800MHz spectrum assets, following the telco’s trial of the technology in Sydney last year.
Phase one of the rollout will begin next month with Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Lake Macquarie and Hunter Valley areas to be the first recipients of the network in April next year, followed by Sydney, Melbourne and Perth by mid-2012. Phase two will deliver the service to Brisbane and Adelaide as well as some regional areas; the telco has not yet scheduled a completion date for this phase.
“Phase one of Optus’ rollout will provide extensive 4G coverage and is timed to coincide with a significantly expanded 4G device range, to deliver the best value and choice for customers,” O’Sullivan said.
“This rollout ensures we remain ahead of the rising demand for mobile data,” he said.
Optus managing director, Gunther Ottendorfer, said the new network would aim to provide faster speeds, reduced latency and cell shrinkage (where increased load on a cell results in devices on the edge switching to an alternative cell) and improved interoperability.
“LTE is now stepping into a world where mobile services are optimised to do IP and data traffic,” Ottendorfer said.
Optus also announced it has secured a licence to trial LTE in the 700MHz spectrum, which was previously occupied by analog television services but will be auctioned off by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The auction for the 700MHz spectrum — or the 'Digital Dividend' as it’s referred to by the government — is pegged to take place in the second half of 2012 and has garnered interest from emergency services organisations.
The trial, for which Optus has partnered with Huawei, will kick off in Bendigo, Victoria in October next year.
“Optus believes that 700MHz will be vital for delivering 4G LTE, especially in regional Australia, because of its ability to deliver LTE over longer distances,” O’Sullivan said.
Reallocating the 900MHz spectrum
As part of its 3G network upgrade, Optus has migrated half of its 900MHz spectrum from 2G to 3G in order to lift the capacity of the network and improve the carrier’s indoor coverage.
It has also introduced 45 dual carrier devices in order to activate HSPA+ services and achieve speeds of 42 Megabits per second (Mbps), which to date has been delivered to 700 sites with more to follow in the coming months.
The upgraded service will start in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth this month, eventually reaching 3000 mobile sites on the network. As with the 4G rollout, the upgraded 3G services will be delivered to Brisbane and Adelaide at a later date.
According to O’Sullivan, the delay in allocating the spectrum from 2G to 3G was down to the majority of customers operating devices that remained on 2G.
“What’s allowing us to redeploy this spectrum so we can get broader distribution of our 3G signal and indeed get into more buildings is because we’re now at a stage where we have sufficient customers who have migrated to 3G that they’ve cleared up the spectrum for that,” he said.
O’Sullivan also said the upgraded 3G and the new 4G networks would not cause issues for those employing the telco’s recently launched wireless femtocell device.
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