UPDATED: 4G in Australia: The state of the nation

Telstra has a head start but Vodafone is spectrum rich.

Updated 9 December 2014: The top three Australian carriers are spending billions upgrading their networks to high-speed 4G LTE services. Here is the latest information on each telco's progress.

Also see:
Australian MVNOs: 3G or 4G?
How fast are HSPA+ and LTE in Australia?
Australian government misses $1 billion in Digital Dividend auction

Telstra 4G

Telstra has stated plans to cover 90 per cent of the Australian population with 4G service by the end of January 2015. As of 27 August, Telstra had 5.2 million 4G customers.

In addition to the capital cities, the Telstra 4G network covers more than 300 regional towns.

The No. 1 telco has a large head start on 4G rollout, having launched LTE services in September 2011.

Telstra operates frequency-division (FD) LTE on the 1800MHz spectrum band. It currently has 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and 15MHz in Sydney and Melbourne. By comparison, Vodafone Hutchison Australia has 20MHz in all five cities, but its coverage is limited to those cities.

Telstra spent $1.3 billion in the April 2013 Digital Dividend auction, taking most of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum available. It bought 2x20MHz of the 700MHz spectrum and 2x40MHz of the 2.5GHz. The spectrum is expected to increase the carrier's 4G coverage and capacity.

Telstra will invest an additional $1 billion its mobile network in 2014, CEO David Thodey said in August.

Telstra is upgrading the network to even faster LTE-Advanced technology and deploying new spectrum to add more capacity, speed and reliability.

Telstra has branded the new speed tier "4GX." The network, combines 700MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands, will be available first in Hobart and parts of Brisbane. 4GX services will cover all capital CBDs and 50 regional locations by 1 January 2015.

In a test of the 700MHz spectrum in Perth, Telstra reached 235Mbps download speeds on a Category 6 (Cat 6) device.

On 21 July 2014, Telstra announced a commercial pilot of its 700MHz spectrum in Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. Telstra plans to turn on its 700MHz network in more locations starting January 2015.

Telstra has also announced plans to refarm low-frequency 900MHz spectrum for 4G. The telco is testing that first in north Brisbane and considering deployments in other regional areas. When they are released in the future, 4G devices supporting LTE Advanced will be able to combine the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for extra capacity.

Telstra is also currently testing LTE Broadcast technology, which would allow the telco to broadcast one video stream to multiple people at the same time. That approach would be more efficient than the current method in which video is streamed separately to each customer.

Some analysts say Telstra’s early rollout of LTE likely will keep the telco ahead of the competition.

“With accelerated investment in the LTE network, we believe Telstra’s mobile rivals will find it difficult to challenge Telstra’s network superiority,” Ovum analyst David Kennedy has said. “They will need to pursue strategies as `alternative’ providers to Telstra.”

Next page: Optus and Vodafone 4G

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