Optus aims for multiple bands, more coverage Australia-wide

The battle for the best 3G network is no longer as big a deal as it was a few years ago, and now, it seems we’re all focused on the much faster 4G LTE coverage. Optus has this week chimed in with an announcement of its own, not only boosting its coverage and promises, but also trying out a new spectrum that no other telco offers.

As more devices supporting fourth-generation mobile’s LTE technology arrive, so too is the need for high speed mobile connections that support it, and Australia’s only provider outside of Telstra is making sure that it has the bones to compete.

“After significant network deployment over the last year, including 4G and major 3G upgrades, the Optus network now reaches 98 per cent of the Australian population,” said Gunther Ottendorfer, Managing Director of Optus Networks.

To give you some contrast, six years ago the Optus network – then 3G – only reached 60 per cent of the population. Last year, the company pushed into 4G, competing with Telstra, and this year it will expand its high-speed 4G network considerably, starting with the launch of a TD-LTE network in Canberra.

One of the first TD-LTE phones from Japan appears to be a Motorola RAZR M. It's worth noting, however, that you won't just be able to bring a TD-LTE phone from Japan as the bands won't be the same.

In Australia, to date, our 4G networks have worked off Frequency Division LTE, which explained by Optus, splits the connection pipe into a dedicated upload and download grouping.

The TD-LTE networking joins those pipes up and allows a larger shared pipe to handle both downloads and uploads, even making it possible for the network to set different ratios with increased download speeds, similar to how an ADSL network speed currently works.

The Optus explanation of FD-LTE and TD-LTE

Canberra will be the first place this Time Division form of LTE is tested, and will require different devices to jump onto this network. At this time, most of the use will come from mobile broadband devices launched by Optus, as specific phones available in other parts of the world use this technology, and we’re not yet aware of any models released locally.

“Optus will be the first Australian carrier to take its network to the next level with a combined TD/FD-LTE 4G network,” said Andrew Smith, Vice President of Optus’ Mobile Engineering Team. “Our aim is to expand coverage for both types of 4G in the coming year to reach over 70 per cent of the metro population by mid-2014.”

What does this mean for consumers?

More bands apparently means better coverage altogether

According to Optus, the company is betting that multiple types of 4G across multiple bands will mean its high-speed mobile networking technology will reach more parts of Australia with stronger capacity.

The inclusion of the Time Division form of LTE will add to Optus’ current use of Frequency Division, as well as the other spectrums the company plans to use, with 700Mhz and 2500Mhz adding to the currently used 1800 and 2300Mhz available in 4G today.

“We have invested more than two billion in our mobile network,” said Ottendorfer this week at the launch of the TD-LTE technology in Sydney. “We will strengthen our 3G networking, grow our 4G footprint, and we’re expanding our 4G technologies.”

Eventually, the upgraded networks will apparently include voice supported over the LTE network and not just data, with Optus saying that it’s “close to announcing a direction” in that area.