Telstra will upgrade its 4GX mobile network in capital cities around Australia to support the LTE Category 16 standard this year, and plans to release the world's first 4G mobile broadband hotspot capable of 1Gbps download speeds in partnership with Netgear. In tests it has already run in real-world settings, the telco has seen download speeds north of 800Mbps. Your 4G is going to get fast.
Telstra switched on its Category 9 and Category 11 carrier aggregation technologies across densely populated towers in the CBD areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane late last year, and released the Wi-Fi 4G Advanced III hotspot to enable download speeds of 600Mbps. As well as the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, that hotspot was the fastest device both in Australia and, at the time, around the world.
And Telstra will again be the first in the world to roll out an even faster network standard, as it rolls out upgrades to its metropolitan 4G and 4GX towers and cells to enable LTE Category 16 and boost the maximum theoretical download speed to 1000Mbps. Upload speeds will see a welcome increase, too, with theoretical uplinks of 150Mbps possible on Category 16.
The new technology — and a compatible device to access it — will be available "later this year" according to Telstra. At first, it'll only be in metro areas but will expand in the future to cover more of the existing 3000 4G towers that Telstra currently runs. Telstra's Mike Wright says that the approach is a pragmatic one designed to affect the densest areas first. "We're building out the inner CBDs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — we go to the busiest part of the network, then as devices penetrate we'll roll out further."
Telstra will be using a combination of its 700MHz, 1800MHz and 2600Mhz frequency bands — spectrum in which it owns significant portions of 20MHz and 2x20MHz — to link together using carrier aggregation to deliver those 1000Mbps speeds. Telstra has holdings over a wide range of spectrum, but will likely use these three as it holds the largest amount of contiguous spectrum across them.
The telco's partnership with Netgear continues, too, with the companies working together to develop the world's first LTE Category 16 hotspot. In a briefing on the device's capability at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Telstra's head of devices Andy Volard said it would add extra capability over the existing Wi-Fi 4G Advanced III (AirCard 810S) in a number of ways.
Specifically developed for Telstra, the new Netgear device will be built around the world's first application of the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 mobile broadband modem. It will use features like 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM modulation, and will support up to 20 Wi-Fi connections simultaneously. Telstra says the device's 4300mAh battery will support all-day usage while connecting to multiple devices and transferring large amounts of data.
According to Volard, the device will be portable but won't look like any of the company's existing products. "It's kind of like a large-ish puck; the current hotspots are flat and long, but this has a brand new design, look and feel. It's going to be a mobile gateway, a mobile router." Telstra has "no plans at this stage" for a mobile broadband dongle, though.