After a long trial with limited business customers, Telstra this week introduced Australia’s very first 4G network, something they have been working on since May. This brand new cellular network uses the Long Term Evolution or LTE technology to provide high speed access to customers. By using 4G devices, this will be the first time people can access true 4G speed in the country.
While the new network is now ready to use, its coverage is still rather small. The new LTE network covers small areas around business districts and airports, spawning a few kilometers at the most. Telstra’s plan is to first offer the new service to business customers, or heavy data users, before expanding the network to more people. In fact, all 3 big telcos in Australia, including Optus and Vodafone, have announced plans to implement the new technology, but Telstra is the first to release theirs.
Of course, to actually use the new network, you will need a device that’s compatible with 4G. Right now, Telstra offers wireless broadband modems, a USB based device that allows laptops to access the 4G speed. However, there is no phone supported by the company that takes advantage of the LTE network yet. Telstra says the first smartphone will be an HTC handset, and it will be released in early 2012.
Telstra’s CEO David Thodey said “We know there is a huge appetite for 4G-powered smartphones and tablets and Telstra is working with some of the world’s leading manufacturers to bring some of these devices to customers in the first half of 2012.” There’s no doubt more devices will follow, including smartphones and tablets, over the coming years. Also announced were the plans, which start at $60 per month for 8GB of download.
The new LTE network offers speeds of 100 Mbps, although on average, customers can expect around 2 Mbps to 40 Mbps, which Telstra says is up to 25 times faster than 3G. The upload speeds will be 1 Mbps to 10 Mbps. Another thing of note is that LTE is a new technology, and current 3G devices will not work on it. For now, unless you have access to an oversea LTE device, you will have to wait if you intend to access the network with a phone. This includes if you have a so-called 4G phone which only supports HSPA+, which is more like 3.5G, like the HTC Inspire 4G.
The service is now available in 30 metropolitan and regional centers, but the company says it will expand the service to 80 locations by the end of the year. Current coverage zones are restricted to 5km around the base location, although this too will increase in time. For now, if you’re one of the lucky people inside a coverage zone, you can take advantage of next generation speeds while on the go.