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Telstra expands 700MHz '4GX' rollout to Brisbane, Hobart

Telstra is adding Hobart, Brisbane, and a number of regional locations to its '4GX' 700MHz network.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Telstra is moving to differentiate its new 4G network expansion into the 700MHz spectrum band, labelling the network "4GX".

The company will this week expand its 700MHz 4G network out from Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth, and a number of regional locations to Hobart, Brisbane, Albany, Ulladulla, Murray Bridge, Narrawallee, Shepparton, Bateman's Bay, Swansea, Bunbury, Port Macquarie, and Chinchilla.

Telstra, along with Optus, acquired spectrum in the 700MHz band as part of spectrum auctions last year, and will be able to roll out 4G on those networks officially at the start of January 2015.

Telstra will refer to the network as 4GX, and promote the lower-frequency spectrum band as able to provide better in-building coverage than the higher-frequency 1800MHz 4G network offers today. The lower spectrum band will also allow Telstra and Optus with 700MHz spectrum to reach further distances with 4G, improving the availability of services in regional and remote areas.

Telstra is aiming to have "4GX" out in at least 50 regional locations and all capital city CBD centres by January 1, 2015.

Telstra's director of wireless engineering, Channa Seneviratne, told journalists in Sydney today that in places where 4GX has been switched on so far, roughly 20 percent of the customers are connecting to that network through some of the newer 700MHz-compatible devices such as the iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy S5.

"The other good news story is that when you've got customers with those capable devices, and they start using the 700MHz spectrum, it actually frees up the 1800MHz spectrum, so people who are on 1800MHz get a better experience as well," he said.

"At Derby Day, we noticed that 70 percent of traffic was actually carried on our LTE network, so there is a big roll off [the 3G network] each year as time goes on as the penetration of 4G devices increases."

Telstra is also combining the two spectrum bands for an LTE-A network that offers higher speeds for category-six devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and the upcoming Telstra Wi-Fi 4G Advanced II hotspot device that Telstra will release with Netgear.

Speed tests conducted on a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in Sydney today revealed download speeds of up to 155Mbps.

Seneviratne also revealed that its timeline for introducing voice over LTE (VoLTE) had slipped from 2014 to 2015, but demonstrated a VoLTE call between Sydney and Perth over the Telstra network. Currently, Telstra is working to ensure that handover between VoLTE and 3G is seamless for customers, to reduce the chances for call dropouts.

"One of the things we want to do before we introduce VoLTE is we want to make sure our customers get a very seamless voice experience as well. If you make a VoLTE call, we want to seamlessly transition onto a 3G call where we don't have LTE coverage."

Seneviratne said the company is still looking for the best application for LTE-Broadcast, which sends the same content, such as a TV broadcast, to multiple devices over LTE. Telstra has mainly trialled the technology at sporting events, but one option Seneviratne said might be useful would be to allow a TV network to broadcast its morning news program to commuters on public transport.

Vodafone is also planning to roll out voice over LTE in 2015. Vodafone has said that it is open to the option of purchasing the remaining 700MHz spectrum left over from the auction should the federal government opt to sell it, but in the meantime has opted to use a combination of its larger holdings of 1800MHz spectrum, and refarmed 850MHz spectrum for 4G services.

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