Telstra and Vodafone have only announced launching 4G services for the end of this year to "brag", according to Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan, and said his company doesn't see consumer demand for Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices just yet.
Telstra and Vodafone have separately made announcements recently to offer 4G mobile internet services using free spectrum in the 1800MHz band that was previously used by 2G services. According to O'Sullivan, the two telcos won't have many customers buying up this year.
"The [LTE] announcements so far have been at 1800MHz frequency. Those are announcements which we feel are really being very much for bragging rights. People wanting to be saying they have it and maybe provide it to a very small number of customers," Paul O'Sullivan told ZDNet Australia in a teleconference this afternoon.
"Certainly in the next nine months or so we don't see the consumer demand and availability of affordable devices for 4G being all that significant in the market place," he said. "However, I can assure you we will launch 4G and LTE sometime soon and we will do it when it is ready."
Optus conducted a series of trials of LTE technology in Sydney last year, but O'Sullivan said that he believes 4G would only become appealing to customers once the telcos acquired spectrum in the 700MHz band as a result of the digital dividend spectrum auction in 2014.
"The major roll-out of 4G in Australia will happen at 700MHz ... That's where you're going to get the really big investments from the carriers and the big roll-outs. We think that's the stage where you're going to see very widespread consumer take-up and acceptance of the technology."
However, O'Sullivan said that the telco would launch 4G services before the digital dividend, but it will be driven by consumer demand for 4G and the availability of devices. In the meantime, O'Sullivan said Optus would focus on upgrades to its existing network.
"We've invested half a billion dollars every year for the last five years in our mobile network. Over the last 12 to 18 months, we've acquired and doubled our spectrum holdings in the capital cities," he said. "We have undertaken a significant metro build of new sites and we've been bringing those on stream. We now have over 80 per cent of our sites on fibre and we've been dramatically upgrading the backhaul capacity to our network. This year you'll see a continuous and aggressive metro build."
In response to O'Sullivan's comments, Telstra said its own LTE roll-out was just another stage in strong consumer demand for mobile internet.
"From Telstra's perspective we see strong interest from our customers in reliable, fast mobile connectivity and the integration of LTE technology into the network is a way to continue to deliver high quality services and meet growing customer demand," Telstra said in a statement, adding that it will be years before the digital dividend spectrum is available.
"In the meantime, we're making use of the allocations we have today so that we can start providing these services to our customers earlier than waiting for the other spectrum bands to become available."
Vodafone Hutchison Australia was also contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.