A phone network going places.
COMPETITION for the fastest mobile internet connection is heating up.
Almost a year after 4G launched in Australia, Optus has joined the race, flicking the switch to the highspeed mobile phone network in Sydney, Newcastle and Perth.
Melbourne received the technology from Optus last week, while Brisbane and Adelaide will have to wait until early next year.
But the market leader is planning to boost its 4G coverage further, with Telstra revealing a $ 500 million expansion plan that would see twothirds of the population covered by the middle of next year.
It is also spruiking its early leadership, with mobile director Andrew Volard dubbing its system ‘‘ the only national 4G- enabled network’’.
Telecommunications experts say rivalry over the next- generation network is likely to see consumers clamouring for new devices and handset makers scrambling to meet demand.
Mobile 4G networks deliver a speed boost of up to five times the current 3G networks, allowing users to download large files and upload photos faster.
These networks also offer less latency, making web pages load faster, videos stream without delay and internet voice calls sound more natural. Despite Optus’s delayed arrival, Australians are already proving to be enthusiastic adopters of 4G.
Telstra has revealed that after one year, consumers have snapped up more than 500,000 4G devices, including 160,000 4G smartphones – despite the availability of only four 4G mobile phones.
IDC analyst Aman Bajaj says the scarcity of 4G phones will turn around now that carriers are competing for customers.
He says Samsung’s new 4G Galaxy S III phone is a prime example as the phone will be available exclusively through Optus this month before moving to Telstra next month.
Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says Apple may also heed these developments when considering whether to launch an iPhone compatible with Australian 4G networks.
‘‘ They must ensure they keep up with their competitors when it comes to 4G connectivity,’’ he says.
‘‘ They can’t ignore 4G because it’s just as big outside the US as it is inside.’’
Telsyte forecasts big growth for the next- generation networks, predicting Australians will be using seven million 4G devices by 2016, when 4G connections will represent almost 20 per cent of all mobile internet connections.
Optus’s 4G launch will help make that happen, with its 4G network covering Bondi to Newington in Sydney, Perth Airport to City Beach in Western Australia and all of Newcastle.
Virgin Mobile will also tap into Optus’s network to deliver 4G phones, starting with Samsung’s latest offering.
Telstra’s 4G network boost will go much further, however, reaching a 10- 15km area around the Sydney GPO, 15- 20km around Melbourne’s GPO and from Brisbane Airport to Indooroopilly. The expansion will involve the installation of more than 1000 4G base stations.
Vodafone, in contrast, does not plan to launch 4G services until some time next year.
AUSTRALIA’S FAST MOBILE NETWORK MAP
All CBDs and 100 regional centres Mid- 2013: Two- thirds of the population OPTUS 4G COVERAGE Now: Sydney, Perth, Newcastle ( selected areas) Saturday: Melbourne Early 2013: Brisbane, Adelaide VODAFONE 4G COVERAGE 2013: Selected areas