A speedy new net­work has ar­rived, but it won’t stretch far out­side city lim­its, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley- Ni­chol­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

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.

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