Australian mobile network operator Telstra Mobile, the wireless unit of fixed line incumbent Telstra, has revealed that it has switched on its first Long Term Evolution-enabled (LTE-enabled) base stations, activating equipment at sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. According to Australian IT, while Telstra is keen to be the first to launch LTE services commercially, this development is only the first step towards this aim, and Mike Wright, the company’s executive director for network and access technologies, noted: ‘This is the first test call on an integrated network using the 1800MHz spectrum, but this really marks the beginning of the rollout, not the end of the rollout.’ Initially it is expected that customers accessing the web via laptops and notebooks will be the first to benefit from the increased downlink speeds that the technology upgrade will provide, with Telstra reiterating that it expects to launch LTE with dongles, although Wright did note that if the company could source compatible mobile handsets for the launch date it would offer them.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, earlier this year Telstra unveiled plans to upgrade its 3.5G ‘NextG’ infrastructure with fourth-generation technology in the central business districts of all state capitals and selected regional centres by the end of 2011. Under the operator’s proposals it will utilise its existing 1800MHz spectrum in order to ‘bring 4G to areas where traffic demand is most concentrated’, while the technology will also be integrated with Telstra’s existing HSPA+ service, which uses the 850MHz spectrum range. The operator expects to have dual mode LTE/HSPA+ mobile broadband devices that operate seamlessly across the 1800MHz and 850MHz spectrum ranges on offer to its customers by the end of 2011. As well as deploying 4G, Telstra also plans to upgrade parts of its network over time with next-generation HSPA+ technologies, a move it claims will provide customers in other parts of the country with ‘4G-like services’ using Telstra’s 850MHz spectrum. Ericsson, Qualcomm and Sierra Wireless have all been named as partners for the upgrade project, while Telstra has noted that the upgrade will not require incremental investment on top of its existing plans, with the funding instead coming from its current budget for capital expenditure.