Optus switches on 4G+ in Melbourne

Optus is continuing to roll out its 4G+ network combining FDD and TDD bands across Australia to offer faster speeds for customers with compatible Category 9 devices.

Telecommunications provider Optus has announced that its 4G+ network, combining one frequency-division duplex (FDD) and two time-division duplex (TDD) LTE spectrum bands, is now live in the Melbourne CBD.

The news follows the telco last month partnering with Chinese tech giant Huawei to switch on its 4G+ carrier aggregation network in Newcastle suburbs Lambton, Mayfield, and Mayfield West, with plans to launch in the Sydney CBD in early 2016, and in Brisbane and Adelaide from mid-2016.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the Galaxy Note 5, launched in August, were the first Category 9 devices commercially available in Australia. Once used across Optus' 4G+ carrier aggregation, the speeds will be faster than those attained on traditional 4G, with the telco having achieved download speeds of 317Mbps during a trial in Newcastle.

"Optus customers with a compatible Category 9 device can expect faster downloads while wandering through Federation Square, enjoying a feed in Flinders Lane, or relaxing at Flagstaff Gardens," Ben White, VP of mobile marketing at Optus, said on Thursday.

"With even more Category 9 devices on the way, we will roll out more upgrades across the Optus 4G Plus network so that our customers can take full advantage of the latest technology."

The growing popularity of 4G usage saw Optus last month announce plans to shut down its 2G network from April 2017 to shift its customers onto the 3G and 4G networks.

"Greater smartphone usage and advances in 4G technology are driving customer preferences for more mobile data and faster speeds, and there has been a steady decline in 2G traffic and customers in the last few years," said Dennis Wong, acting managing director of Optus Networks, in early August.

The transition from traditional calling to the use of data marks a trend in the increasing usage of communications apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, spurring Optus' entry to the market through a Wi-Fi calling app.

"I think you've seen us starting to move away from being very mobile focused to one that is about integrating communications and entertainment for customers, regardless of where they are," Optus CEO Allen Lew said in April.

Rival telco Telstra has similarly announced that Samsung's new devices will work across the 700MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz spectrum bands in use by the carrier 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," Mike Wright, group managing director for Telstra Networks, wrote in a blog post.

Telstra added that it would release a Netgear Category 9 mobile broadband Wi-Fi device by the end of the year.

"The battery-powered mobile hotspot from Netgear can operate continuously for up to 11 hours, supports a data usage meter, and can share a 4G connection with up to 10 devices simultaneously, making it possible to enjoy the performance benefits of our up-rated network performance on existing Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops, and smartphones," Wright said.

Optus Wholesale on Wednesday announced that it had signed an exclusive two-year deal to deliver its National Broadband Network (NBN) aggregation services to broadband provider Exetel.

"Through our relationship, we are able to provide Exetel with a platform to market nationally. We see Exetel as a key partner and look forward to a continued relationship with them," Optus Wholesale satellite and SMB managing director Rob Parcell said.

The deal will see Exetel gain access to Optus' NBN points of interconnect to provide residential broadband services at a lower cost by using existing backhaul.

"We look forward to working with Optus as they help us keep our NBN pricing amongst the most competitive in the market," Exetel CEO Richard Purdy said.

Last week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted final approval for the revised agreement covering the transition of Optus' hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) customers onto the fixed-line NBN, and the progressive acquisition and integration of parts of the telco's network with the NBN.

Optus recently published its results for the quarter ending June 2015, reporting an increase in net profit of 19.5 percent, from AU$164 million last year to AU$196 million this year on revenues of AU2.3 billion, citing 4G mobile data uptake as its driving force.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) grew by 7.3 percent for the quarter, from AU$597 million in the three months to June last year, to AU$641 million this year.

Optus also noted that its current national 4G network covers 90 percent of the population.

"Since the beginning of 2015, we have switched on 700MHz spectrum at 2,400 metropolitan and regional sites," Lew said.

"Over the coming year, Optus will continue this important investment program so that more Australians can have access to reliable, super-fast 4G mobile services in more places."