Optus has switched on its 4.5G network in partnership with Chinese networking giant Huawei, with its 1.03Gbps-capable network now available in Macquarie Park, Sydney.
Using a combination of 4CC/5CC carrier aggregation, 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), the 4.5G network will be rolled out across Australia's capital cities during 2017, and will reach 70 percent of Optus' network in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth.
Calling it an important step towards 5G in 2020, Optus Networks managing director Dennis Wong said Macquarie Park was chosen as the first site because it is a technology hub that is home to many business and residential customers, a university, and a major shopping centre.
"The precinct is Sydney's technology hub, and it is this diversity that will ensure we're able to see how the network performs in a wide variety of scenarios," Wong said.
Optus' first public 4.5G trial on Wednesday morning at its campus in Macquarie Park saw the telecommunications operator attain speeds of 0.975Gbps.
Optus said it will next commence trials of MIMO 128T128R.
Optus' live trial of 4.5G with Huawei a year ago saw it attain download speeds of 1.41Gbps by aggregating 5x 20MHz of Optus' unique network frequency bands, combined with 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM.
Peak download speeds of 1.23Gbps were achieved during testing over live network conditions, with the two companies adding that the method also has "theoretical maximum speeds" of 1.43Gbps.
Optus said it will continue testing and moving from 4G towards a "4.5G" mobile network before the arrival of 5G in 2020.
"We continue to utilise our network and spectrum assets to test our network of the future and prepare for 5G," Wong said at the time.
"By 2020, 5G will be here, and we are committed to identify ways to prepare our network to support this new technology and further improve customer experience."
Optus' parent company Singtel had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint R&D with Huawei back in 2014.
Huawei and Optus have also been trialling 5G network technology, in November attaining speeds of 35Gbps, which they said is the fastest single user transmission rate using 5G so far in Australia.
The trial was conducted over the 73GHz millimetre wave spectrum band, using the Polar Code coding mechanism.
Optus last year also signed an MOU with networking giant Nokia to collaborate on developing its 5G network, under which it has undertaken closed lab tests using Nokia's 5G radio test bed on its Airscale product, as well as narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) tests. The two companies will also conduct a trial of a 5G prototype across Optus' 3500MHz spectrum band by 2017.
Tay Soo Meng, group CTO of Optus' parent company Singtel, said the 5G trials are all part of the "global race" towards the new network technology.
"There is a global race to explore and develop 5G technology, and in Australia, Optus is well positioned to lead in this space with our ownership of 3.5GHz, and close partnerships with our vendors including Nokia," Tay said.
"Through this partnership, the commencement of joint studies, and in-lab and in-field testing, we are primed to explore this technology. As we look ahead, Optus will explore new network architectures and use case trials with a specific 5G focus."
Tay added that Optus is readying its core and transport networks with network function virtualisation (NFV) and cloud infrastructure, and will demonstrate pre-commercial 5G systems at an upcoming "major sporting event".
ZDNet understands that Optus is looking into trialling its 5G network at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.