We're on the cusp of even faster 4G networks being rolled out across the country, helping you burn through your measly quotas quicker than ever. Optus is the first of Australia's big three mobile phone networks to switch on 4G carrier aggregation in Australia, doing so today in most state capitals. But there's one problem — which phones and 4G hotspots support the brand new tech?
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Optus has enabled 4G carrier aggregation in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, with Canberra being switched on in a few weeks, although there's no word for Darwin or Perth just yet. Also referred to as LTE-Advanced, carrier aggregation massively boosts the potential speeds that users could see from their smartphones, tablets and mobile hotspots. Says Optus:
“Carrier Aggregation supports that shift by turbo-charging a customer’s 4G data experience, enabling concurrent video streaming and faster HD video downloads, and by generally delivering a better mobile data experience when in a coverage area.
We are future proofing our network in response to consumers’ growing appetite for mobile streaming, browsing and downloading.”
Carrier aggregation basically binds together two separate 4G frequency bands, or two channels within a larger frequency band, theoretically doubling the available bandwidth for downloads and uploads. If you want to get technical, the frequency band that Optus owns — 2300MHz — has a full 98MHz of free spectrum in some areas, so there should be more than enough bandwidth to power new devices onto massive download speeds. So, which devices are the lucky ones?
Here's the thing — to be honest, we're not sure. It seems like Optus isn't entirely sure either, because there's currently no list of TD-LTE Carrier Aggregation-compatible devices that they're able to share just yet, according to Lifehacker.
Plenty of devices released within the last year support Optus's single-band 4G Plus, which runs on TD-LTE 2300MHz on a single 20MHz data channel. But from what we can tell, nothing out at the moment supports TD-LTE Carrier Aggregation (and two simultaneous 20MHz data channels). This is in stark contrast to Telstra, which has a fair few LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation-capable Wi-Fi hotspots (although no smartphones), but no supporting network just yet.
The thing about Optus' 4G (and carrier aggregation 4G) is that it uses a slightly different technology to Vodafone and Telstra's broader mobile networks. Optus uses time-division duplex, where its number one and number three competitors use regular frequency-division duplex.
TD-LTE devices are less common, and there was a strange crossover period last year when Optus-specific handsets were released, although now new handsets like the Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8) and LG G3 can be used across all three networks with impunity.
What is not yet clear is which new devices support Optus's carrier aggregation standard for TD-LTE. Optus' statements says that "at least four" devices released in the next couple of months, but doesn't have specific brands or model numbers available just yet. It certainly sounds like nothing on the market currently supports the next-gen tech, which is a pity.
That means that if you're one of the first to pick up a new TD-LTE carrier aggregation-capable smartphone or hotspot, you'll be one of very few people on the network — and you just might reach the crazy 160Mbps real-world download figure that Optus is quoting. [Optus]