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Telstra Trial 4G 'LTE-Advanced' As Data 'Explodes'

By Oonagh Reidy | Wednesday | 20/02/2013

LTE Advanced, HetNets: as mobile users chew up Internet data, Telstra is upping the 4G ante

The telco has just announced addition of second wireless frequency to its 4G network -  its old 2G 900MHz which it will add to the 4G 1800 MHz spectrum band.

The use of older spectrum willhelp unlock more capacity on its 4G LTE network and cater for mobile demand in remote areas like Kalgoorlie, WA, and regional Queensland.

Telstra will trial LTE (Long Term Evolution) Advanced - a new technology which uses the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands together and the telco says it is one of the first globally to trial the two, announced at a media event in Sydney today.

Telco execs today referred to the importance of refarming spectrum to increase coverage in areas "when it makes sense."

The technology will help deal with heavy data demand over greater distances.

4G users are growing at 20% monthly, says Mike Wright, Executive Director, Networks and Access Technologies, and is outpacing 3G growth which is slowing due to the arrival of the faster network, adding these new technologies announced are vital to deal with the "tsunami "of demand for Internet data.

The average Aussie now spend 12 hours every weekly surfing the net on a smartphone or tablet - not a PC.

4G data usage per device is also on the rise, Telstra confirmed today.

"The core of our competitive advantage is out network" says Telstra Executive Director, Mobiles, Warwick Bray, and the new LTE technology will mean no black spots, faster speeds and quicker updates.

The country's biggest telco is also testing LTE-B (broadcast) a technology which allows multicast broadcasts so if a lot of people want to watch the same thing at the same time whether its AFL final or another event, the 4G network wont keel over.

And in a bid to end that annoying network crash at big events like AFL finals and concerts, Telstra is also trialing 'HetNets' in major cities,  which are small cell networks that essentially expand network capacity.

HetNets could possibly be used on 3G and 4G networks, although the telco would not confirm this.

And as it invests $1.2 bn in its mobile network this year ($4bn in total on 4G) , Telstra is making sure the investment is paying off and is busy pushing users over to 4G services, and weaning them off 3G.

80% of its postpaid smartphones launched this year will be 4G- ready it confirmed- the telco already sells eleven 4G smarties including iPhone 5 and Motorola RAZR M 4G, along with 4G data packs for tablets and dongles.

Currently, Telstra has 1.5 million customers on its 4G network, and says it is on track with its network expansion to 66% coverage, countrywide by June. 

However, when questioned the telco refused to predict how many customers it expects to add to its 4G network in 2013, although Optus now has its, albeit limited, 4G LTE network running, and Vodafone just announced 4G trials.

 In 2013, we will consume more data than we have done in the last 2 years, says Mike Wright, Executive Director, Networks and Access Technologies as our "love affair" with mobile and the "explosion" of 4G services continues.

4G LTE devices are known for consuming more data due to the faster download/upload speeds and consumers often complain of greater "bill shock" on 4G, but Telstra say it plans to up the ante on its usage alerts for its customers

Telstra confirmed it is "in discussions" with phone manufacturers about LTE Advanced technology and compatibility with devices.

Nokia's new Lumia 920 is 9000Mhz ready and so will a BlackBerry and Sony device, and "there will also be upgrade for mobile broadband devices later this year," Bray confirmed.

But Wright says the telco is confident about its LTE technology and infrastructure but admits it has to innovate to keep up with massive demands placed on its network.

It will also erect 1000 new 4G base stations throughout Australia this year.

2G to 3G was a "big jump" but 3G to 4G was another "wow moment", says Wright.

Telstra will be hoping the 'wows' are on its network and not rivals.

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