Got a new Galaxy S5, LG G3, HTC One M8, iPhone 6 or other LTE 700MHZ-compatible smartphone? Got a Galaxy Note 4 faithfully pre-ordered? Telstra has officially introduced its next-generation mobile data network, and it's promising some pretty impressive download figures as well as massively improved range and coverage.
LTE image via Shutterstock
We first talked about 4GX in early October, and after a little bit of hinting on new products like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, iPhone 6 and Sony Xperia Z3 on Telstra's website, it looks like the moniker is now official.
As humans we love going faster. And that extends to how we use our mobiles which we increasingly rely on to connect with people, apps and content in the moment. That’s why we’re introducing 4GX. 4GX is our new mobile service that’s bringing extreme speeds and extra 4G coverage to a range of communities across the nation. It’s a big step forward in mobile performance built on some of the world’s most advanced network technology.
4GX refers to a couple of things simultaneously. It's Telstra's marketing term for the 700MHz mobile frequency band that it purchased from the government in May 2013 — a frequency band that, when refarmed for mobile data communication, offers longer transmission ranges and better building penetration than Telstra's current 900MHz and 1800MHz 4G holdings. It's also the terminology that refers to Telstra's new LTE-Advanced network, which bonds 700MHz with the existing 1800MHz network on compatible devices (like the Galaxy Note 4) to double download speeds.
With a 700MHz-compatible smartphone, of which there are a few dozen already on the market including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3, you can expect somewhat improved download speeds from Telstra's current 900MHz and 1800MHz 4G networks — purely due to less congestion and a larger contiguous chunk of spectrum being available to handsets. Around the 80Mbps download and 40Mbps upload mark seems reasonable. On 700MHz plus 1800MHz LTE-Advanced on the Telstra Advanced Pro X hotspot and the Note 4 — the only two devices in Australia to support 4GX LTE-A at the moment — you can expect much improved speeds, in the order of 150Mbps download and 40Mbps upload.
When you use a phone compatible with 700MHz, your phone will switch between all three of Telstra's 4G bands as appropriate, and you should see improved coverage and more consistent download speeds at a higher overall transfer rate. This is a Good Thing. Telstra's coverage maps don't show 4GX/700MHz saturation just yet, but you should expect coverage on the January 1 roll-out to extend at least 3km from the centre of each state capital city (measured from the GPO).
The official go-live date for 4GX is January 1, 2015 — that's when Telstra is allowed to switch on the 700MHz network as per its deal with the government. Along with the capital cities' CBDs, a full 50 regional centres, likely with slightly reduced coverage range, are also ready to go. Said network will also be significantly expanded over the course of the next year, but until then when you leave a 4GX zone you'll automatically fail over to regular ol' 4G or Telstra's nationwide 3G alternative.
4GX also comes with the tagline "what faster feels like", and in a bit of informal testing by CNet at Telstra's launch today, there really is a significant boost in download speeds — 150Mbps download speeds are not uncommon to see:
Variable speeds on the Telstra LTE-A network (branded 4GX). This one is great, the one before was 7 Mbps down. pic.twitter.com/mXowROepuL
— Nic Healey (@dr_nic) November 3, 2014
There might be a couple of teething issues, though, with speeds in the 7-12Mbps range also popping up in testing — seemingly a mix between the 150Mbps-ish maximum and the significantly lower alternative. It's entirely possible that some devices may be defaulting to non-4GX and non-LTE-Advanced mobile frequencies with the widespread network yet to be switched on more broadly, but having the potential there is the important part. Here's Telstra on 4GX: