Optus has concluded a trial of 700MHz 4G services in Bendigo, claiming speeds of up to 70Mbps and transmission distances of 13 kilometres. That's good news in the long term, particularly for rural areas, but it won't make any difference right now.
Picture by Wilson Afonso
Optus' network head Günther Ottendorfer was bullish about the results:
The trial concluded that 4G services using the 700 MHz frequency have the real potential to offer a better experience for customers with peak download speeds reaching 70Mbps and upload speeds of 32Mpbs — significantly faster than existing 4G networks.
Importantly, Optus also demonstrated that 4G coverage delivered on 700 MHz could be achieved over 13kms from single tower compared to around 3-6Kms using existing 4G 1800 MHz spectrum. This is particularly important when deploying high speed mobile services across large distances for customers in regional Australia.
While that's promising news, we won't see speed benefits for quite some time. The auctioning off of 700MHz spectrum (currently used for analogue TV transmissions) won't happen until November 2012, and actual rollouts using the network will take longer. Optus last week predicted it could be 2015 before such services are active, and there's no guarantee that equipment running on 700MHz in the US will work the same way in Australia.
Optus is already developing an LTE-based 4G network, which will launch in the Newcastle area in April ahead of a rollout in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth mid-year. Its recent acquisition of vividwireless also expands its spectrum base. Like rival Telstra, developing broader 4G coverage is essential to avoid customer overload.