Optus scores 50Mbps in Sydney LTE tests

Wireless technology is "more bursty"

Optus has achieved 50 megabits per second (Mbps) downlink and 20Mbps uplink speeds on its first Sydney trial of Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless broadband technology.

Real-time LTE tests performed over the 2.1Mhz spectrum in the Sydney suburb of Gordon today averaged speeds of 43Mbps downlink and 900Kbps uplink, while 3G tests performed in parallel achieved 1.3Mbps and 70Kbps respectively. Laboratory LTE tests reached 73Mbps downlink.

A second phase of the Sydney trials will be conducted on the 1800Mhz band in the second half of the year.

Optus director of product portfolio planning, Henry Calvert, said they will better “simulate a real user experience” with more base stations and end-user devices.

“The second trial will establish LTE… and will determine performance issues, and the key things to look for around the engineering of the technology,” Calvert said.

The tests were conducted between two base stations in Gordon, NSW, on a 10Mhz band segment it purchased earlier this year.

Telstra’s earlier trials established speeds of 100Mbps in regional Central Victoria over the 1800Mhz band, using a 100Mhz band segment. Telstra also achieved the same speed over a record distance of 75km using a 20MHz portion of the 2.6GHz spectrum.

Nokia Siemens Network sales director of radio and core networks, Mike Smathers, said LTE could reach downlink speeds in excess of 172Mbps, due to hertz efficiency, but is limited by available spectrum bandwidth.

Optus parent company, Singtel, is running six trials across the Asia Pacific with different vendors including Huawei, Ericsson, NEC and LTE, to determine the best LTE technology and establish how it performs over various environments.

Optus director of mobile core engineering, Andrew Smith, would not be drawn on whether the telco giant would use a single telecommunications provider for all six subsidiaries. Optus used Nokia Siemens Networks to conduct the first and upcoming second trial legs.

He said Optus was “pressuring” the government for details regarding spectrum digital dividend in which the much sought-after 700Mhz and 2.5Ghz bands are expected to be auctioned. He said the auction would take place in 2012, and LTE would be commercially ready by 2013.

The 700Mhz band would be best-suited for LTE deployment in regional areas, according to an Optus engineer involved in the trials.

Smith said LTE is a lower-cost and more simplified technology than 3G (BSC and RNC are included in base stations) and is more suited to the popular short burst transactions like Facebook updates.

“LTE is more bursty and allows for more variable content,” Smith said.

“Many transactions are short. Ninety per cent of [Optus customer] transactions are less than 156kbps.”

Smith said LTE deployments would “compliment” the fibre National Broadband Network (NBN), and would be deployed “irrespective of what happens” to the fixed network.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority this week awarded further spectrum to Optus, allowing it to boost regional 3G services in 972 locations.

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