Optus Promises LTE, But Not For A While

Optus staged a media demonstration today of how much extra bandwidth it could get from LTE. But while it is currently running one trial in Sydney and plans a second by the end of the year, any real-world performance improvement for your smart phone is still a little way away.

In a demonstration held in Gordon in Northern Sydney (which is where the first round of trials are based – a second will happen in the CBD later this year), Optus showed off a demo of how LTE can improve performance. A download was shown running at 43 megabits per second (versus around 3 on the current 3G network). Upload speeds were, as expected, lower on both platforms (around 860 kbps for LTE, 115 for 3G). You can see the results screen in the abysmal smart phone photo on this post.

The trial is designed to help Optus work out how to best integrate LTE into its existing network. However, full deployment won’t happen until there’s a large range of LTE-supporting devices on the market, which isn’t expected to happen in Australia until 2011.

In the subsequent Q&A, the question was inevitably asked: while we’re waiting for that, what is Optus doing to improve the performance on its 3G network, which often creaks under the weight of 8 million or more customers?

“We’ve made a significant amount of investment, particularly in response to rising demand,” Optus’ Andrew Smith said. “We believe through our own measurements that we’ve made some substantive improvement in the quality. We think we’re continually improving.”

Smith said that increasing data volumes made capacity planning challenging. “Voice is a finite service. People can only talk for so long. With data, it’s infinite. Browsing takes a certain amount, video takes even more. We don’t fully know what the endless limits of the possibilities could be.”

Telstra’s also trialling LTE, so increased speeds are on the way all round eventually. Just not yet.

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