Telstra has begun switching on Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G network technology at selected base stations in a number of Australian capital cities, ahead of the full launch of the service scheduled to occur by the end of this year.
Telstra's executive director for networks and access technologies, Mike Wright, said this morning that the first base stations to use 4G had been switched on in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, and that data had been successfully sent over the new 4G network.
"The integration of 4G technology into our existing wireless network demonstrates Telstra's intention to continue to deliver high quality services and meet ever-growing customer demand," Wright said in a statement.
In 2010, Telstra conducted a number of trials of LTE technology with Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei and Ericsson over its 1800MHz spectrum, before ultimately making a deal with the latter in February 2011 to roll out LTE by the year's end.
The roll-out will go to all capital cities in Australia, as well as to a number of select regional centres. Telstra will utilise its existing 1800MHz spectrum, which it says has now been mostly freed up due to 80 per cent of its mobile customers migrating from 2G to the telco's Next G network.
Rival company Vodafone Hutchison Australia recently announced plans to launch LTE services later this year as it begins a massive overhaul of its network equipment. Number two telco, Optus, however, has kept mum on whether it plans to launch any LTE services. Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan labelled Telstra's LTE announcement as "bragging rights", and said that the technology that utilises LTE has yet to mature to a standard that Optus would be happy with.
Wright said that Telstra plans to sell dual-mode LTE/HSPA+ mobile broadband devices developed by Sierra Wireless at the launch later in the year that can use both the 1800MHz and the 850MHz spectrum bands, meaning that customers will be able to use the 4G network and roam to the Next G network when 4G is unavailable.
"With more than a million mobile and wireless broadband customers joining Telstra in the past 12 months, and data usage on the Next G network doubling every year, the increased network capacity LTE will provide is vital," Wright said.