Optus to launch TD-LTE 4G network in Canberra

Optus to launch TD-LTE 4G network in Canberra

Summary: Optus plans to launch a new LTE network in Canberra, but it's noticeably different to the 4G network across the rest of Australia.

TOPICS: 4G, Telcos, Optus

Optus will launch a time-division duplex long-term evolution (TD-LTE) network in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in March or April 2013, but it will have to be marketed very differently to the rest of the company's 4G network.

In February 2013, Optus will close down the Unwired network that it picked up as a result of its AU$230 million acquisition of Vividwireless in February this year. In doing so, it will free up 98MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz spectrum band for the deployment of a TD-LTE network that will ultimately complement the frequency division duplex LTE (FD-LTE) network in the 1800MHz spectrum.

Optus' managing director of networks Günther Ottendorfer announced this morning that Optus will launch its first TD-LTE network in Canberra in March or April next year.

FD-LTE separates spectrum into blocks, with one dedicated for uplink and one dedicated for downlink. TD-LTE has a single block of spectrum, but the uploads and downloads are split up by time. FD-LTE works best in lower bands of spectrum, while TD-LTE works better in higher spectrum bands. TD-LTE is the technology that NBN Co has used for its fixed-wireless network.

Unlike the rest of Australia, however, the capital's network will not be an 1800MHz 4G network, as Optus lacks spectrum in that band in Canberra. ZDNet understands that much of the spectrum in the ACT is held by the Department of Defence, although Telstra has launched its own 4G network in Canberra in the 1800MHz spectrum band.

The lack of an 1800MHz 4G network in Australia's capital will offer some challenges to Optus when it launches the 2.3GHz 4G network, as many of the 4G devices in the market, such as the iPhone 5, will not be compatible with the new network, and customers outside of 1800MHz areas will be left on 3G in Canberra.

It is unclear at this stage whether the new network in Canberra will be marketed differently to the rest of Optus' 4G network to avoid customer confusion, and ultimately scrutiny from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which already won an AU$2.25 million dollar fine from Apple for launching a 4G iPad in Australia that didn't work on Australian 4G networks.

Ottendorfer said he hopes that by the time the network launches, there will be more multi-band, multi-mode devices that can operate across a number of different types of LTE networks.

"Then it would be very easy to explain, because the customer doesn't need to care, but it could be not really there," he said. "I think we have a good chance in the first and second quarter of next year that we will have multi-mode devices."

The company also plans to launch 4G in Adelaide in the first half of 2013, to add to the existing sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Newcastle.

In Brisbane, Optus plans to increase its 4G coverage from 50 sites to 100 by the end of 2013, and will extend the coverage to other parts of metropolitan Queensland, along with Wollongong on the New South Wales south coast, in the next year.

In addition to 4G upgrades, Optus has also upgraded more than 3,000 sites for dual-channel HSDPA or "3GPlus" since 2011.

Topics: 4G, Telcos, Optus


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Unwired spectrum

    Unwired uses 3.4GHz spectrum, not 2.3GHz (currently used by Vividwireless in some places).

    It will be interesting to see how much spectrum they throw at TD-LTE on the first go.
    • Yes, but.

      To quote Unwired's own website:

      "In July 2005, Unwired traded a portion of its 3.5GHz spectrum licences to AUSTAR while AUSTAR traded a portion of its 2.3GHz spectrum licences to Unwired. This gave Unwired access to 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum covering 65 per cent of the total Australian population"
      Josh Taylor
      • Yes, but?

        Yes, but the first poster is right - Unwired operates on 3.5 GHz and vividwireless on 2.3 GHz. They are different networks. vividwireless operates in Canberra but I don't think Unwired do.
        vostok island
        • Yes, but?

          Exactly. Unwired may hold lots of spectrum for 2.3GHz but only a tiny bit of it is used - for Vividwireless (which doesn't operate in Canberra at all, BTW).

          The second paragraph of the article implies Unwired needed to be close to make way for Optus TD-LTE, which isn't true. Reality is Unwired is being closed as an obsolete service with very few users left.
          • Unwired, vividwireless and Optus TD-LTE

            Vividwireless only deployed at most two 10 MHz wide wimax channels in the cities where they deployed the service within the 2302-2400 MHz band for which they had a license. Unwired was deployed in the 3.5 GHz band which poses no conflict with the proposed Optus TDD-LTE. The conflict will come with deploying the Optus TDD-LTE 2300 service in the same areas with vivdwireless but not initially.
            Of the 98 MHz available in the 2300 band vividwireless can continue operating its two 10 MHz wimax channels and Optus can initially deploy a single 20 MHz wide TDD-LTE channel (the maximum allowed in current LTE standards), but Optus may well deploy a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th 20 MHz TDD-LTE channel in the band later and with the flexibility of LTE-Advanced they could all be aggregated into a super fast high capacity wireless network that will give them a serious edge over the competition. But Optus only has the spectrum license in the main capital cities. NBNCo has the license in all other areas for use with their fixed wireless TDD-LTE network.
          • Hmm?

            They bought the company to get the spectrum. They still need to close down the networks in order to use said spectrum, so I'm not sure what your point is?
            Josh Taylor
          • Re: Hmm

            The service they are shutting in February 2013 (Unwired) doesn't free up any spectrum usable for the planned Optus TD-LTE network.
          • vividwireless in Canberra

            au contraire - vividwireless are in Canberra - look at http://web.acma.gov.au/pls/radcom/licence_search.licence_lookup?pLICENCE_NO=8100134

            26 x 10 MHz channels registered.
            vostok island
  • Incorrect statement regarding TDD vs FDD

    "FD-LTE works best in lower bands of spectrum, while TD-LTE works better in higher spectrum bands."

    I don't know where you got that incorrect idea Josh. TDD-LTE works just as well in lower bands as FDD-LTE. It's just that there is very little unpaired spectrum available in the lower bands suitable for TDD-LTE. Most of the unpaired spectrum for TDD data use has been allocated in the higher bands because nothing in the lower spectrum was available in the past.
    Countries in the Asia Pacific have agreed upon two different variants of the 700 MHz digital dividend band for LTE. One with FDD-LTE (band 28) that we will use as per the upcoming auctions and TDD-LTE (band 44) that is preferred by many other countries especially China.
    TDD-LTE 700 MHz deployments will have the advantage of spectral efficiency (with a full 100 MHz available) compared to the paired total of 90 MHz with FDD-LTE in the APAC 700 band since a wasted 10 MHz guard band is required in the middle. The only disadvantage for TDD-LTE in the 700 MHz band is that to cover very large distances for which it will be needed for in outback Australia the timing slots between receive and transmit need to be increased to allow for the increased propagation delay and therefore the overall efficiency is reduced. But LTE in the 700 MHz band won't just be used out the back of Bourke, it will be used for better building penetration in our CBD's as well and in those locations TDD-LTE would have been a better choice.
    • Experts

      Telco experts I spoke to have said that lower is better for FDD.
      Josh Taylor
      • Round trip time

        The only reason I could think of is the lower frequencies travel further, increasing round trip time at cell edge. That is not good for TDD as in increases the "dead" time between sending and receiving, lowers the effective throughput, and reduces spectral efficiency. But even at 700 MHz and say a range of 100 km the round trip time is only 0.7ms and its hard to imagine that would be a problem when network ping times are around 20 ms.
        vostok island
  • Don't need to wait for multi-mode

    Ottendorfer might have his hopes a bit high for a multi-mode device supporting both their 1800Mhz FDD LTE, 900Mhz/2100Mhz UMTS as well as 2.3Ghz TDD LTE. It's a pretty odd combo to expect device manufacturers to support.

    For non-mobile fixed type usage, there are decent single mode devices around even now:

    E.g http://www.netcommwireless.com/product/4g/4gt101w