A speedy new network has arrived, but it won’t stretch far outside city limits, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson
It’s all about speed.
MOBILE downloads raced from a jog to a sprint this month as a new network opened to smartphones for the first time.
Telstra launched Australia’s first 4G phone in the HTC Velocity 4G, opening the floodgates to a year dominated by talk of mobile download speeds, faster devices and coverage areas.
Telecommunications analysts welcome the move as a ‘‘ game- changer,’’ praising Telstra for boosting phone download speeds to up to 40Mb a second.
But they warn that 4G networks are unlikely to become widely available for some time and Australians will take some convincing to ditch current phones and upgrade to 4G models.
Telstra launched its first 4G phone after ‘‘ testing the device for a couple of months’’ after the network opened to computer downloads in September last year, mobile director Andrew Volard says.
In 4G coverage areas, the HTC Velocity 4G can download apps, stream video or retrieve email at rates between 2mbps and 40mbps, or roughly five times current speeds. Uploads can be as fast as 10mbps.
E Guide tests discovered speed boosts of up to 17 times that of the current network.
‘‘ This network really is all about speed,’’ Volard says.
‘‘ What you may have been limited to doing on a fixed line only, now you can do on a mobile phone.’’
In Tasmania, Telstra’s 4G coverage is currently only available in the Hobart city centre, the Hobart airport, Launceston
What you may have been limited to doing on a fixed line only, now you can do on a mobile phone
CBD, and Ulverstone. Volard says the company is working to upgrade a further 20 areas.
Outside these areas, 4G phones revert to the existing 3G network.
IDC associate market analyst Kameron Malik says Telstra’s 4G or LTE network uses a technology that does not lend itself to travelling long distances, making a 4G expansion to regional areas unlikely.
‘‘ Using the 1800MHZ frequency is a good option for Telstra now, but if you’re looking for long- distance coverage that’s not possible,’’ Malik says.
‘‘ If they want to increase their coverage in rural areas they will need a spectrum with lower frequencies.’’
The Federal Government plans to auction some low- frequency spectrum this year and it will become available as analogue TV broadcasts turn off.
Late last year, Optus began trialling the 700MHZ spectrum that will be sold off, though it will use different technology to launch 4G in parts of regional NSW in April. The company plans to launch further 4G coverage in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth from mid- year.
Vodafone has yet to reveal a launch date for its 4G plans.
Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says there may be no need to rush, as consumers will be slow to swap phones to use the speedy networks.
‘‘ I don’t see many people expediting their upgrade cycle to jump on to the 4G bandwagon,’’ he says.
‘‘ It will be a gradual move driven more by phone models that happen to be LTE- ready.’’
Early adopters and users with expiring contracts will be most likely to jump over to the new technology, says Ovum telecoms senior analyst Nicole Mccormick.
‘‘ Of all mobile connections in Australia I predict LTE connections will make up about 30 per cent by the end of 2016,’’ Mccormick says.
IDC business director Dustin Kehoe says the quick launch of many more 4G- capable devices, from phones to tablets, will encourage many users to swap networks, as will future apps designed to take advantage of faster download speeds.
‘‘ We will potentially see many more telehealth applications on the phone, applications for education, there are a lot of ideas,’’ he says.