Optus, Telstra talk 1Gbps speeds coming this year

Australia’s wired National Broadband Network may promise high internet speeds, but trials from two of our biggest telcos suggest wireless may deliver super high speeds before the cable has finished rolling out.

There’s no doubt we’re seeing plenty of news from mobile makers this week, what with Mobile World Congress on over in Spain, but there’s more going on, with word that Australia could see internet speeds hitting past the 1Gbps mark this year.

To put that into perspective, currently most ADSL2+ subscribers in Australia pull down a maximum of around 8 to 15Mbps, which translates roughly into between 1 and 2MB per second for downloads. Over in the world of 4G, Australians range from access speeds of between 60Mbps and 200Mbps, which in turn translates to between 7MB and 25MB per second.

Not too shabby, sure, but when the next generation of 4G LTE arrives — a technology many are referring to as “LTE Advanced” or “4.5G” — we’ll see speeds of around 1Gbps, which translates to around 128MB a second.

If that doesn’t just about blow your eyelids off, we’re not sure what will, and the good news is that this high-speed wireless technology isn’t far off at all, with both Optus and Telstra talking it up in the past week.

Optus, for instance, sent word first, telling GadgetGuy that a test conducted with Huawei achieved speeds as high as 1.41Gbps (180MB per second) when tested in at an Optus test site in Newcastle.

“This field trial in Newcastle is a first and important milestone as a direct result of our local investments in R&D here in Australia, said James Zhao, CEO of Huawei Australia.

“This joint trial represents a significant advance toward fulfilling Huawei’s & Optus’ commitment to developing 4.5G technology in Australia.”

A local representative for Optus later confirmed to GadgetGuy that the technology shouldn’t be far off, saying that “Optus is aiming to introduce this technology in selected metropolitan locations in the second half of the year, when devices become available”.

Telstra isn’t far behind, either, gradually enabling its network to support 1Gbps speeds at select sites across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Much like Optus, this is apparently “in anticipation of a new device which will support these speeds being released later in 2016”.

So what does all this mean?

Well, aside for faster downloads on your mobile, it means other services can start to be put into place, such as Voice over LTE and Video over LTE, providing more ways to communicate using the high-speed data pipe.

It also means your mobile phone can become a high speed conduit between your computer and the internet when turned into a mobile hotspot, though it’s worth noting that this move can get rather costly.

The high-speed 4G and 4.5G networks aren’t meant to be a replacement for the National Broadband Network, and there’s no doubt that a wired network will be better in the long run, not just for data costs, but also if you happen to live in rural Australia.

But it’s also worth noting that 4.5G is a stepping stone to an even faster technology, with 5G now something that isn’t terribly far away.

Telstra has been testing it with Ericsson, and has even achieved speeds of more than 11Gbps in an indoor test facility in Sweden, with plans to roll out a trial for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

To put 11Gbps into language anyone can understand, that is quite literally over 1 gigabyte per second of downloads, with the tally hitting 1408MB. Yikes.

Intel is talking up working on this technology, and this week has even spoke out on the area, saying that it is creating partnerships to “lay the groundwork for faster, smarter, and more efficient 5G wireless networks”.

“The transition to 5G brings communications and computing together and is a fundamental shift for the industry,” said Aicha Evans, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Communication and Devices Group.

“It is essential to lay the foundation for future 5G networks now to make amazing experiences of the future possible.”

What this means is companies are getting in now, developing the next generation of mobile networks so that we have them by 2020. The new network will likely affect everything, not just the phones and tablets and computers we’re relying on today, but this “Internet of Things” that has been talked about for years, including cars, appliances, and even a security system built into your home.

Everything will be connected, and it will be available at your command when you need it. That’s what fast internet can do.