Optus has picked up the P2 controller in Australia's game of 4G deathmatch to challenge reigning champion, Telstra. Can it fight to the top?
What Is It?
Optus 4G is an 1800Mhz network that is currently live in Sydney, Newcastle, Perth and Melbourne with more capital cities to come in the next 12 months.
Currently supported on the network is a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot made by Huawei and the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G which is launching in coming weeks. We tested the network with the 4G hotspot, so we'll review both the device and the network.
As far as the network goes, the speed is impressive. We tested around the Sydney area in a loop around the coverage network. Areas in the covered suburbs were chosen at random and three tests of the network's up speed, down speed and ping were recorded.
Here are the results:
Average speeds are equal to that of your home ADSL2+ connection. The ping is a little sketchy at times, though, so don't expect to get any decent gaming sessions.
The on-street coverage for Optus 4G in supported areas is great. You're never short of a connection and you're not waiting for long on a congested network. I'd hazard a guess that because the network is new it's also reasonably empty.
As far as the Huawei 4G Wi-Fi modem is concerned, you'll be browsing for around five hours before you're looking for a charger. The build quality is top notch and the browser-based information page is great.
I've mentioned before that I think battery is the single biggest failing of these 4G devices. The battery on the Huawei modem could be better for a device of its size.
While we're on the device, it's also worth mentioning that the screen is tiny and awful to read in direct sunlight and the process for getting the SSID and security key is unfathomable at first.
The only network gripe I have is that the in-building coverage with Optus 4G does leave a bit to be desired.
Should You Buy It?
Optus hasn't just built an impressive new mobile network, here. It's built a new standard for speed. Before Optus came on the scene, 4G in Australia was tested in a relative vacuum, as Telstra dominated. Now, though, the 4G scene has four players, making the game a lot more interesting for competition, and a lot friendlier on your wallet.
Optus can certainly put its network where its mouth is in terms of speed, but this isn't the device or the telco that will bring 4G to the masses. Not yet, anyway. In-building coverage is where the device is lacking. Plus, when you leave the 4G coverage area, you'll roll back onto the Optus 3G network which leaves a bit to be desired.
Optus 4G is still for latté-sipping, city-dwellers who rarely venture outside the confines of their trendy CBD-burrows. Those trapped in suburbia and especially those relegated to the rural parts of Australia will be left without Optus 4G for the foreseeable future.
Optus is working to refarm its 3G network around the country, before giving 4G to other capital cities, and then expanding it outwards to rural and regional areas from there. That means regional folk will be waiting over a year for this sweet 4G coverage. This is where Telstra's 12-month head start brings the pain for Optus.
If you want a fast, reliable and high-speed 4G network you can use in more places around Australia, Telstra is still the only player relevant to you. Here's hoping Optus throws everything it has at expanding its 4G faster.
For the city-bound latté-swillers, though, this network is amazing.