Optus has reached downlink speeds of 70Mbps and uplink speeds of 32Mbps in the first Australian long-term evolution (LTE) mobile trials carried out using 700MHz spectrum.
Holding a video conference with Optus' headquarters in Sydney from a moving Bendigo tram.
"Our trial was in Bendigo, regional Victoria, over the past few months, and I'm pleased to announce today that it has been a success," Paul O'Sullivan, Optus chief executive, said at a Queensland AIIA luncheon. "We achieved peak download speeds of over 70 megabits per second. This wasn't in the lab — it was in the middle of the Bendigo CBD."
Optus used "real-world" scenarios to test the capability of the 700MHz spectrum, testing different wireless functions, such as using smartphone apps, mobile TV, online gaming and high-definition video conferencing.
The service enabled coverage 13km from a tower, as opposed to the 3km to 6km achievable with the 1800MHz spectrum that Optus is using for its LTE network in Newcastle.
Optus is the first carrier that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has provided with 700MHz spectrum to run a trial, even though the 700MHz spectrum is being used for LTE by many carriers worldwide. The recently released new iPad, for example, would provide LTE speeds on carrier networks that are offering the technology using 700MHz.
In Australia, however, carriers are waiting for the spectrum to be freed up as television is switched from analog to digital, with spectrum to be auctioned off in November this year. However, the spectrum may not be available to operators for commercial services until 2015.
"That's three years. Let me be clear: it doesn't need to take that long," O'Sullivan said.
"We already have digital dividend spectrum sitting idle across about 40 regional towns, many in Queensland. More spectrum is becoming available every month."
The television stations that have moved to digital are still operating the digital services in the same spectrum band. Although Optus caused no television interference with its trial, in order to clear the way for commercial services, the spectrum needs to be re-stacked. O'Sullivan said that governments and broadcasters need to get together to figure out how to enable a phased release of 700MHz spectrum as areas switch to digital.
"Early access to vital spectrum in areas where analog TV has already been switched off will be important in driving future 4G mobile and broadband competition for regional Australia," O'Sullivan said.
Meanwhile, the amount of 1800MHz spectrum is limited.
Optus will go live with LTE services in Newcastle in April. Sydney, Melbourne and Perth would follow later this year. O'Sullivan said today that Brisbane had also been added to the list, with LTE expected by early next year.