Telstra launches VoLTE, 600Mbps Wi-Fi device

Telstra has launched both voice over LTE and a Category 11 Wi-Fi hotspot device that provides speeds of up to 600Mbps.

Telstra has activated its voice over LTE (VoLTE) capability, saying it will provide high-definition voice and video calling, as well as faster call set-up times and fewer dropouts, for customers with compatible handsets to use in 4G areas.

"Starting today, we will be progressively enabling the new 4G calling capability, voice over LTE (VoLTE) for Telstra Mobile post-paid customers with a compatible mobile handset to use 4G calling," said Mike Wright, general MD of Telstra Networks, on Wednesday morning.

"VoLTE is the next generation of how voice calls are carried over our network. In those 4G areas where VoLTE has been enabled, when customers make a voice call on a VoLTE-enabled handset, the call is integrated into the 4G LTE data stream rather than the previous arrangement of reverting back to 3G."

Telstra said it will be progressively enabling post-paid consumer devices, beginning with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, soon to be followed by the new Sony smartphone. The telecommunications carrier will then turn to enabling VoLTE for enterprise and business customers, followed by prepaid consumers.

The telco also demonstrated its voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) capabilities, to which 4G devices on a VoLTE call can transition when in range of a Wi-Fi network.

Similarly, rival telco Vodafone Australia last month announced its intention to begin offering VoLTE and VoWiFi, with CEO Inaki Berroeta saying the capabilities are coming "very soon", while Optus launched a Wi-Fi calling app in August and switched on its 4G+ network in Melbourne this month.

On Wednesday, Telstra claimed that it will cover 99 percent of Australia's population with its 4G network by the end of June 2017. Currently, it extends to 94 percent of the population.

Australia's incumbent telco also showed off its new offering from Netgear, in collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm: A "world first" 4GX Wi-Fi hotspot device touting peak download speeds of up to 600Mbps.

The Telstra WiFi 4GX Advanced III Mobile Broadband Hotspot uses three LTE channels across the 700MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz spectrum bands to achieve faster download speeds and greater capacity than was previously available under standard 4G; on Wednesday during a trial in Sydney, the telco attained speeds of around 503Mbps down and 41Mbps up.

"This is the world's first commercially available Cat 11 experience, and is a breakthrough addition to our mobile device range thanks to our ongoing partnerships with these leaders in innovation,' said John Chambers, executive director of Mobile at Telstra.

According to Ericsson, the network capability is enabled by its LTE carrier aggregation 16A software, with the device and software combining to enable 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) encoding, which in turn produces the peak 600Mbps download speed.

The mobile Wi-Fi hotspot can share a 4GX connection with up to 15 devices simultaneously, and a battery life of 11 hours of continuous use, or 260 hours when on standby. Category 11 devices can currently be used in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Brisbane, with the network set to expand in future.

Telstra had last month announced that Samsung's new Category 9 smartphone and tablet were compatible with its 4GX network, using the three LTE channels to achieve download speeds of up to 450Mbps.

"Both Samsung devices will be 4GX (Cat 9) compatible, and are capable of the fastest 4G speeds in Australia in selected 4GX areas. They're primed to support our customers' ever-expanding love of apps, music streaming, and the growth in mobile video," Wright said in August.

Telstra had originally stated at Mobile World Congress in March that it would be releasing Cat-9 devices from April.

Telstra also confirmed last month that a 5G network will be launched by the end of the decade in collaboration with Ericsson. The network is expected to provide speeds of up to 10GB per second.

"[5G] addresses the world of an 'Internet of Things'," Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said. "You can imagine a world in 2020, where almost anything that could be connected will be connected."

The launch of its 4GX and 5G networks marks a trend in the increasing popularity of data over voice; Telstra said over a year ago that it would be shutting down its 2G network by the end of 2016.

"We have seen steep declines in the number of customers on 2G to the point where today, 2G traffic accounts for less than 1 per cent of our total network traffic [and] we have not sold a 2G phone for several years," Wright said in July last year.

The Netgear device will be available for retail on September 29.

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