What is LTE?

The outlook for LTE in Australia
HTC's Raider 4G is an LTE-capable phone coming to Australia in early 2012.

HTC's Raider 4G is an LTE-capable phone coming to Australia in early 2012.

The use of mobile internet is growing rapidly. An exponential increase in the number of people using social media and increased demand in general from individual users as well as business means a growing number of people want high speed mobile internet. With people sharing videos, uploading images and sending messages through social networks, many see internet access as a 'must have'. In order to do this, they not only want internet access, they want access to broadband speeds while on the move.

Provision of mobile broadband in Australia

The growing number of Australian consumers demanding mobile broadband internet is not going unheard by the telecommunications providers. To meet this demand, the major providers are rolling out faster networks. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all deploying Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks; Telstra has already launched its first LTE device: The Telstra USB 4G modem review.

LTE is a fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband technology expected to be the major successor to current 3G GSM/UMTS technologies. LTE has a number of advantages over 3G mobile networks, including minimum peak download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). In June 2011, Ericsson announced that it had achieved downlink speeds of 1 gigabit per second using the faster LTE Advanced specification. (It's worth noting that the definition of LTE as '4G' is somewhat contentious: The International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector earlier this year ruled that LTE doesn't qualify; LTE-Advanced does, however]].)

LTE also offers extremely low latency. Another part of the appeal of LTE for carriers is that it can be used over a range of spectrums and the standard's spectral efficiency ('spectral efficiency' essentially measures how efficiently data can transmitted by a given wireless standard).

LTE networks in Australia

Telstra's LTE has initially been deployed in Australian capital cities, some airports and selected regional locations. The Telstra LTE network uses the 1800MHz spectrum; it's one of the first LTE networks to use this spectrum, along with Mobyland Sp in Poland.

The LTE network is integrated with the operator’s HSPA+ network which offers downlink speeds of up to 42 megabits per second.

Australia's second largest telecommunications provider, Optus, expects top rollout out its LTE network in the first quarter of 2012. LTE services will be made available in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley, Port Stephens, and Macquarie Valley. Following this initial regional rollout, capital cities Melbourne, Sydney and Perth will then get access to Optus LTE services. A further rollout (at an unspecified time) will see provision of LTE by Optus extend to the remaining capital cities.

While Telstra and Optus have both been very open about their support and uptake of LTE technology, Vodafone has remained quiet and is yet to announce a date for the launch of its LTE network. In September 2011 the telco made “arrangements” with the Australian Communications and Media Authority for blocks of spectrum in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to use for its LTE network.

At present the company is carrying out a massive network overhaul with Huawei, a Chinese vendor. It will be replacing 2G and 3G Ericsson equipment at some 8000 sites.

Wireless broadband provider vividwireless is also looking to LTE, after initially launching with a WiMAX-based network. In January 2011 a Sydney trial achieved consistent speeds of 40-70Mbps.

With major Australian operators moving forward with plans for a LTE network rollouts, it seems that Australian consumers will not have long to wait for faster mobile broadband access. In order to access the LTE networks, you'll need an LTE modem: Either a USB, a PC Card, or an ExpressCard. Alternatively, you will need a 4G-enabled smartphone, such as the HTC Raider 4G. Currently, this HTC handset is the only 4G phone that has been announced for Australia, and it is expected to launch early in 2012.

LTE networks promise minimum peak download speeds of 100Mbps. The range over which it is available will be considerable, making it possible for people to potentially access high speed internet in areas where cable, DSL and dial-up internet connections weren't available previously. Whether users are looking for a way to access their social networks, or to carry out work related tasks while on the go, LTE will provide a solution that will replace the need to hunt for Wi-Fi hotspots. The overall outlook and uptake in Australia looks set to be high and the provision by all three major networks suggests that this technology will be available at a competitive price for the end user.