This Is The Year Of Super-Fast Mobile Broadband In Australia

2015 is going to be a pretty big year if, like most of us, you use a smartphone or tablet every day. Everything is going to get a whole lot faster, and you'll be able to use 4G in more places around the country. Here's what Australia's top three telcos have to show off in the next 12 months.

Telstra

We first found out about Telstra 4GX way back in October of last year, but as of January 1 this year it's finally happening. The Telstra 4GX 700MHz rollout has officially kicked off around metropolitan and regional areas around the country, and the biggest Aussie telco has some big plans for the new network. 4GX covers a much wider area than Telstra's existing 900MHz and 1800MHz networks, so if you're a regular long-distance commuter or traveller then Telstra should remain your number one choice.

4GX is fast, too. Telstra bought a big chunk of 700MHz spectrum, more than it owns of any other frequency spectrum, and what that means is faster downloads and uploads and lower lag. To use 4GX, though, you'll need a compatible smartphone. Both the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus support the 700MHz 4G frequency that Telstra's 4GX is based on, as does almost any new mid- or high-end smartphone or tablet like the Sony Xperia Z3 or LG G3 or Samsung Galaxy S5. That means if you've bought a smartphone already within the last year or so, and you're a metropolitan Telstra customer, there's a pretty good change you'll already be running on 4GX when you're in any built-up area.

4GX isn't the end of Telstra's plans for this year in mobile data, though. It has switched on 4G Advanced (or LTE-Advanced, or carrier aggregation) for any site that has 4GX switched on, so if you have a brand new smartphone like the Huawei Ascend Mate7 or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, you will get ridiculously fast 4G download speeds — we're talking in the region of 150Mbps, three times as fast as any other Aussie network.

Optus

Optus is in the middle of a massive 700MHz 4G rollout across the country, the mobile network spectrum it paid $650 million for in 2013. Australia's second largest telco is calling its next-gen network 4G In More Places — it's a bit of a wordy title, but it gets the point across that you'll be able to use your smartphone or hotspot or tablet in more places on Optus' fast 4G.

Head over to Optus's mobile data network coverage tracker and you'll see a bunch of green and purple splotches to represent the 3G and 4G data coverage in your area. Click on that 3 Month or 6 Month checkbox to show off the 4G data network expansion currently taking place around the country, and you'll see a new red area — that's the future 4G In More Places. It covers a far wider area than the current 4G

Optus' 4G In More Places coverage rollout is still ongoing, but as the year progresses it'll get larger and larger — you might just wake up one morning and find your smartphone blazing through those Facebook posts and Twitter updates. By mid-year, you'll notice the Optus network speeding along, as long as you have a supported 4G 700MHz smartphone. Since you'll only find 700MHz on relatively new phones, that's a great reason to upgrade.

Vodafone

Vodafone in 2015 is all about the low-band. We're specifically talking about the 850MHz frequency that Vodafone used to use for its 3G network, but has now re-farmed partially to offer extra 4G speed and distance. The promise that Vodafone made was that by the end of 2014, it would cover 95 per cent of Australia's metropolitan population with its new 4G network, so if you're in any major city around Australia your phone should be already switching to 4G 850MHz wherever possible.

In reality, 850MHz isn't really about speed — although there will be an element of that, since it's extra bandwidth and capacity on the fastest possible mobile network that Voda is running. It's about coverage, and since 850MHz is a relatively low-frequency band of the mobile telecommunications spectrum, its wavelength means it has far superior in-building penetration compared to Vodafone's existing 4G.

You will see better speeds, though, as long as you're on a device that supports the 850MHz 4G band. Vodafone's own Pocket Wi-Fi 4G hotspot doesn't support the band, and neither does its 4G dongle, but basically any modern smartphone includes 4G 850MHz, like the Sony Xperia Z3, LG G3 or Samsung Galaxy S5 — certainly more smartphones, and cheaper ones too, than support the 700MHz frequency used by Optus and Telstra's new networks.

Low-band 4G means that if you're a Vodafone customer, you'll see that little 4G symbol in more places around the city or suburb that you live in. Extra range and high-speed coverage is a very good thing, and given that has been a valid criticism of the company in the past, this should be the year that Vodafone kicks a lot of goals.


Comments

    Stuff that. I'm sticking to 3G and my 26 dollar, 45 day plan that includes 500 dollars worth of calls, 500 dollars of optus to optus calls, shit load of text and 5GB of data.
    Waiting an extra second for pages to load is well worth forgoing 4G for my plan.

      And here lies the problem - Australians don't need faster 4g - they need bigger download caps, this is where the real bottle necking occurs - not knowing just how damn quick mobile data is chewed through these days it will only end up with more people (the uneducated) going over their limits and hit with horrendous bills.

      This is what really grinds my gears...
      (this was written by someone who's phone is 90% connected to unlimited Wifi the majority of the time all downloads (updates) are made on the Wifi with only general web browsing sites like Gizmodo/Kotaku/Business insider when out and about)

      I still believe the limitations Telco's implement on mobiles is as bad as speeding cameras on a racetrack - they could obviously give everyone 50gb a month phone plans but where would they make all that dirty dirty revenue from.

      Last edited 12/01/15 11:15 am

        That's a very poor analogy, and not just because there are no speed cameras on racetracks anywhere in the world (although mostly it's for that reason). Data is expensive because that's what clogs up the networks. Calls and SMS require bugger-all bandwidth but data chokes the network constantly and easily. The proof is there for all to see - try and get a good, fast connection at a football stadium at half time or on a crowded peak hour train. So if data is creating bottlenecks, it makes sense that data should be more expensive to pay to improve the service, doesn't it? It's a very competitive market and if the telcos could afford to lower data prices, they'd be in a race to the bottom to gain marketshare.

          How do you think they enforce pit lane speed limits?

            Pit lane is where you go when you get OFF the race track.

              Lol, never been on a track have you? Try watching motorsports on TV.

          Go take a Porsche or R1 around Bathurst, Isle of Mann, Monte Carlos or the Nurburgring just to name a few and you will find speed cameras on race tracks.

            Last time I drove around Mt Panorama, and you don't need a Porsche to do it, there was no speed camera. I doubt there is one on the Monaco GP track, either (they aren't big on them in Europe). Ditto for the Isle of Man (note spelling).

          This is it basically. Could data limits be higher? Absolutely.
          Does keeping them low ensure a fast and effective network? Yes.

          Providers could stand to provide greater amounts of Data on standard plans in my opinion, but doing so will come at the cost of greater congestion.

          most of europe has unlimited data plans, so there is really no excuse on a hardware level.

          Mobile networks would get clogged when there was a lot of traffic or high congestion at a single point well before people were making much use of data. Back in the very early 2000' any SMS (and sometimes calls) I sent would frequently fail or not arrive until the next morning when sent on New Years Eve, and the same would occur during big events such as Big Day Out etc.

          That's not to say large data loads don't clog it further, but it's not as if network congestion only came about due to people using Facebook on their phone.

          Last edited 13/01/15 1:16 pm

      I used to say I didn't need 4G... until I got 4G. Now I find 3G infuriatingly slow and could never, ever go back to a 3G only life. The speed difference is way more than you think. An app download that once took a minute on 3G now takes a few seconds. Apps like weather and news feeds load in a tiny fraction of the time it used to take them. You're crazy if you don't think it makes much difference, it's almost life changing. Even your plan is that impressive - I pay $3 more for a 4G plan that is roughly the same, except you get more data, but it's only 3G data so it's not worth as much.

      What is your plan called because that's way better than what i'm getting.

        Old Woolworths plan. You can't get it anymore since optus took over.

      I find your phone plan too good to be true, could you please link your plan to see it for myself?

      Last edited 12/01/15 2:54 pm

        I'm guessing it's the now-grandfathered Woolworths Mobile.

          Bingo. Give that man a cigar. Unless you had the Woolworths prepaid, optus won't give you the same deal.

        Woolworths prepaid taken over by optus. You can't get the deal anymore and I'm not moving.

    and for the rest of the people not living in the big cities, you can have the second rate nbn that is being butchered as we speak

      Actually Optus is rolling out it's "4G in more places" to regional areas first, then backfilling the suburbs later on. The suburbs already have reasonably good 4G coverage of Optus, but most regional areas only have 3G.

      That's why Optus is concentrating on regional first.

      Telstra is taking the opposite approach. It will do a lot of metro areas first, then prioritise regional areas that already have 4G from Optus, then do the rest of them last.

      Last edited 12/01/15 2:16 pm

    I'm able to get 183mbps on Telstra using speed test in Travancore Vic, only issue is I've nearly used all my data allowance as it uses so much data to do the test!

    I find the problem with 4g is that you and download an entire 2 hour youtube video almost instantaneously, when all you wanted to do was watch 10 seconds of the clip.

      Yeah, I can see how that would be a terrible problem to have.

    3G for me on my TPG plan until 4G caps increase and prices reduce.

    I dont need faster mobile broadband. It's already faster than my home broadband so I want the telcos to stop stalling with the NBN and get on with upgrading wired services. I'm stuck with ADSL (no not ADSL2) and 5 people in the family all trying to get a share of the limited bandwidth. Since introduction of the NBN, no telco wants to spend any money upgrading infrastructure for services to the home.

      Tony Abbott & Malcolm Turnbull reckoned all Australians would have at least 25mbps by 2016.

      That's not going to happen now and may never happen.

      Let's see what lies they have to tell us next election.

    While it's all well and nice that the telcos are upgrading the mobile networks, I agree with the points that @jokemeister and @brodiek make. Our fixed broadband infrastructure is quite poor compared to our mobile infrastructure and our data caps are too small on both mobile and ADSL deals. While I'm not annoyed that the new NBN is only FTTN, I just want it to be implemented. Enough faffing around, just give us better internet. Australia's average internet speed is already bad enough and we don't need terrible telcos to make it worse. Best solution for everyone? Google please come to Australia and implement Google Fibre across the country, yeah that'd be greaat.

    That's all good and well - and clever business.

    We use the Internet for so much these days. Making it faster means we can look at more, stream more, upload more etc. I wonder what their cost/benefit analyses and ROI period for upgrading their mobile network are like.

    Shame about gawd awful fixed line services though. NBN under this government is a joke. Hopefully these turds get voted out and we can switch lanes back to FTTP again.

    Tbh I find the current speed fine. There are some blackspots that need to be covered better but currently my phone loads youtube faster than I can watch it and if I use my phone as a tether for my laptop, downloading movies usually only takes 5-10 minutes.
    The bigger issue is data size/plans. I really want to know what we are in store for this year.

      True, Speed is nice but no point if you get crappy data limits.

        The extra speed isn't there so you can download 4Gb instead of 2Gb.

        It's there so your 130mb mp4 file comes faster, so your phone stops using the network for that download faster, which results in less congestion for everyone. That way, overall, everyone gets faster speeds than they had before.

        How much data you download in a month is all about self control at the end of the day. Just because an internet connection runs faster, doesn't mean you have to use it.

        The faster speeds are enabled so congestion doesn't become a major problem slowing everyone down.

    While I have a 2.5gb limit I'm paying extra for and only make it through the month connecting to WiFi, who gives a shit if its super fast. Mobile broadband is by far the most overpriced utility.

    This article's headline is bollocks.

    These new 4G frequencies will only provide fast mobile broadband for a very short time.

    Radio spectrum, by its very nature has severely limited capacity compared to a decent fibre optic network.

    Soon, a lot of of people will start trying to use 4G as a substitute for Australia's pathetic fixed broadband. 4G network capacity will be reached in no time and that will slow all the 4G networks to a crawl.

    The only way Australia will ever have decent universal broadband is via a FTTP network.
    Given both Liberal and Labor seem incapable of building such a network, most Australians have already been consigned to our national digital backwater.

      It's bollocks because of the hypothetical scenario you're supposing? Yup.

        I'm a bit late to the game to comment, but this isn't a particularly hypothetical situation. Performance of every current wireless technology suffers due to congestion. Adding frequencies will reduce congestion (and for those on the new frequencies there will initially be very little congestion) but once there is reasonable uptake then performance will drop.
        The extremely high cost of data here in Australia does reduce that impact because people can't afford to be watching HD YouTube on mobile devices constantly.

    Someone's profiteering.

    Especially when you can have tourists coming over here on their 15 pound plans from the UK, and getting 25Gb of data to use IN AUSTRALIA, while we pay the same and get 1-3Gb of data to use in our own country.

    Ireland with a population of just over 6 million, (admittedly smaller than Australia) gets Unlimited bandwidth for $20 Euro.

      Yes but how is mobile network congestion in ireland?

      The trouble with Australia is that our citizens are data hungry and if everyone had 25Gb for 15 pounds ($28) then none of us would get download speeds above 10 megabits.

    Like everyone here is saying, we need larger data plans at a decent price. Eg. my home connection I get a massive 2.5Mbps. My phone gets me 80Mpbs. Now I pay roughly the same for both, one I get 300Gb, the other, 2Gb...

    Funny that this article came out on the day the State of the Internet report shunted Australia down to 44th place for internet speed.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-12/australian-internet-speeds-rank-44th-in-the-world/6012570

    What point is superfast mobile broadband when you pay a huge price to take big bites of small chunks of data?

    what we really need is a superfast NBN so we can all benefit from the increased download/upload; in both our business & leisure time.

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