Telstra’s already selling LTE devices. Vodafone’s announced it’ll have LTE by the end of the year. Optus isn’t in that much of a hurry; it’s just announced that its first LTE products will go on sale in April 2012.
Optus’ announcement only covers a relatively small area: in April 2012 they’ll offer LTE services to the Newcastle, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie areas. By mid-year, Optus plans to have Sydney, Melbourne and Perth covered. Other capital cities and regional areas will end up with service, but Optus isn’t announcing when they’ll see LTE as yet.
Optus stated that it is the only carrier testing LTE services on the 700Mhz spectrum band; those trials will take place in Bendigo, where the frequency was freed up due to the removal of analogue television services.
Technically speaking, LTE itself isn’t a 4G standard, since the International Telecommunications Union has decreed that the 4G label should only be used for services which can offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second. The 4G mantle is being reserved for LTE-Advanced or LTE-A, which is due to be finalised in 2011. We can expect to see LTE networks migrate to LTE-A over time, but given that there’s not yet any live networks for LTE in Australia, that process won’t necessarily happen in a hurry. But it certainly won’t stop the label “4G’ being thrown around with abandon.