Optus demonstrated a peak speed of 1.18636 Gbps (1186.36 Mbps) at their 4.5G Macquarie Park test site media launch event today, just a tad faster than Telstra’s recent gigabit LTE demonstration event.
Optus expects the Next Generation Mobile Alliance to finalise official 5G standards within a year’s time.
Meanwhile Optus is laying the foundation for 5G by rolling out 4.5G (LTE Advanced Pro 3GPP) across Australia with their partner Huawei. First in selected capital cities and in the next twelve months reaching over 70% of the Optus network in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
For 4.5G device early adopters, Optus claims you will enjoy data speeds at upgraded cell towers of up to 1 Gbit per second. For example you could download a full HD movie in about 40 seconds. Optus Networks MD Dennis Wong also promised lower packet latency.
Optus is not expecting to be able to sell gigabit LTE capable devices for quite a few months, perhaps late this year. The modem used for the 4.5G speed demonstration was massive; we expect consumer devices to be somewhat smaller and lighter!
Optus mobile customers with a new or recent device will enjoy the benefit of 4.5 G enabled cell towers because of the more modern equipment and more efficient use of spectrum: enabling up to 4x increased cell site capacity, less congestion in crowded places and more reliable video streaming.
Gigabit LTE in Real Life
Of course in real life neither Optus or Telstra are able to promise a guaranteed dedicated LTE gigabit speed connection to their customers once this new technology is rolled out across their networks Australia wide. Furthermore Optus CEO Allen Lew stated quite clearly that NBN Co is a key partner of Optus and they don’t see their LTE service as being a like-for-like competitor.
This was well considered at telecommunications strategist John Lindsay’s blog recently, where he answered the question “should NBN Co be scared of Gigabit LTE?” .
Lindsay concluded that
“Mobility is the killer app and the mobile operators can charge a premium for it. LTE is going to satisfy low volume users but the price will be prohibitive for hundreds of gigabytes per month. That said, they are the very users NBNCo is counting on to cross subsidise the roll out. We live in interesting times.”
Optus Vision is to be Entertainment Platform
It was clear from Optus CEO Alan Lew’s presentation that he wants the company to be seen as a source of entertainment, especially data hungry video and audio, and the company is heavily investing in their network to achieve this goal.
Both Optus and Telstra don’t want to be seen as dumb mobile data pipes, as evidenced by their respective purchases of exclusive Australian streaming rights for premium content like the English Premier League and The Olympics respectively.
Optus needs three things to roll out 5G, Lew said:
- Standards to be set by the Next Generation Mobile Alliance, for estimated implementation by 2020.
- Spectrum – Optus has the necessary 3500 MHz spectrum required for 5G coverage
- Massive MIMO 128×128 spectrum efficiency technology, to increase cell site capacity
Lew said that since he became Optus CEO in 2014, his single biggest priority was to lay the foundation for a video ready network and he thinks that they have now achieved that. He said that he believes mobile technology and premium video content will converge, when it happens Optus wants to have foundation to deliver “very different experience for customers” to meet “the very special requirements for video”.
Optus CEO Talking Points
We caught a glimpse of the Optus CEO’s talking points printout under a chair (quoted below) which included what seemed to be some jabs towards Telstra’s claim to have the broadest network, as well as interesting insights into Optus business goals of increasing ARPU (average revenue per user):
“Our goal is to optimise demand for data and monetise it. We are moving beyond just competing on price and data allowance to compete with services which we can bundle effectively. It’s about providing digital media services that meet the changing behavioural patterns of Australian consumers.”
“Extensive 4G coverage (now at 95.9%) gives us the opportunity to grow customers and our ARPU from high usage and higher monthly spend as customers increasingly trade up to higher tiers.”
“But the conversation has shifted discussing population coverage 2 to 3 years ago was important, but it is now about demonstrating our networks density and capability across voice and data services.”
“It is also important to consistently invest in network infrastructure and services in metropolitan, regional and remote locations nationally”.
“It is counter-productive to have a broad network but not the capacity for our customers to use it consistently”.
“4.5G is a precursor to 5G and is set offer significant benefits for business customers in the area. In addition to significantly improved speeds throughout and 4×4 MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) capacity to combat slow network speeds due to congestion”.
“Importantly customers do not need to have 4.5 G devices to benefit from the 4.5 G experience, as 4.5 G improves network capacity”.
“The 250QAM 4×4 multi-user MIMO technology can double the number of concurrent video users being supported in a single cell site, i.e. reducing the possibility of slow speed of congestion by half”.
“As a high-tech business precinct, Macquarie Park is the perfect hub combining R&D, academia, residential, commercial and retail sectors to best test and examine pre-5G technology”.
Where to next
Optus and Telstra have shown off Gigabit LTE demonstrations but as we know these did not reflect real-world conditions for a normal consumer.
In the interests of competition, we hope that Vodafone Australia also demonstrates gigabit LTE speeds soon and outlines its plan for upgrading it’s network.
Our final judgement is withheld until Ausdroid get our hands on commercially available modems from the carriers to try out 4.5G speeds under real-world conditions.
It also must be noted that it’s all very well having superfast mobile network speeds, however without correspondingly larger data quotas at a reasonable price, these higher speeds can’t be utilised much. It would be like having a Ferrari with a 5L petrol tank.