Australian mobile network operator Optus has unveiled its plans for launching commercial fourth-generation services, with the cellco revealing it expects to introduce Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology from mid-2012, iTWire reports. With its main rival Telstra having already switched on LTE-enabled sites in May this year, Optus will reportedly begin rolling out the 4G technology from next month, with a view to delivering LTE services to Newcastle, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie areas in April 2012. Meanwhile, a rollout of LTE services in some of the country’s capital cities will also begin in October 2011, aimed at inaugurating the fourth-generation technology in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth from mid-2012; phase two of the rollout will see LTE expanded to other capital cities and regional centres at a later date. Optus has also announced that it is the first Australian carrier to be awarded a licence to trial LTE services in the 700MHz spectrum band, which has been freed up by the switchover to digital TV services. The operator says it expects to trial 700MHz LTE services in Bendigo, Victoria, claiming that using that band in particular will have benefits in rural areas of the country, due its ability to deliver the high speed service over longer distances.
Commenting on the developments, Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan said: ‘Our customers demand – and deserve – an excellent network experience to support their digital lives … Phase One of Optus’ rollout will provide extensive 4G coverage and is timed to coincide with a significantly expanded 4G device range, to deliver the best value and choice for customers … Optus has invested nearly AUD2 billion (USD2.05 billion) in the past four years and we will spend over AUD500 million in this financial year alone on our mobile network. This investment will ensure our mobile sites and fibre transmission network can deliver a real choice in 4G services for Australian consumers and businesses.’
In related news, Australian Business Traveller reports that alongside the LTE deployment, Optus is aiming to upgrade its existing 3G network, while also scaling back its 2G infrastructure with a view to using spectrum freed up by the latter move to add capacity for third-generation accesses. It is understood that Optus will begin cutting capacity on its 2G network this month in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, with Brisabane and Adelaide expected to see similar work in ‘coming months’. The cellco reportedly claimed to have installed 660 new mobile transmitters in the last year, and it has plans to construct some 500 more, while upgrades at 2,500 existing sites to improve performance are also planned.