Optus announces 4G expansion, examines a rollout of China Mobile tech

Optus has announced the rollout of 4G coverage to 70% of Australians living in metropolitan areas by the middle of next year, along with a limited trial of a new technology used by China Mobile.

There will be a $1 billion tender process to mobile equipment suppliers in order to build out the project.

According to The Australian, in order to test companies submitting tenders, Optus has announced a limited trial of a technology called TD-LTE (time division long-term evolution) across 12 sites in the ACT on bandwidth purchased from Vivid Wireless.

TD-LTE technology allows uploads and downloads to be sent and received on one frequency at different times and at potentially different amounts of time.

It differs from FD-LTE (frequency division long-term evolution) networks, used in both Telstra and Optus’s existing 4G smartphone networks, which constantly uses two separate frequency channels, one for uploads and one for downloads.

By allocating more time to downloads than uploads, TD-LTE networks can theoretically achieve faster download speeds (albeit with slower uploads) than FD-LTE.

However, despite its use by the world’s largest mobile phone carrier, China Mobile, TD-LTE networks aren’t commonly used outside China.

A further disadvantage of TD-LTE is that existing 4G smartphones, including all iPhones, won’t work with the network; this incompatibility has been used to limit Apple’s marketshare in China.

News of the trial comes just weeks after Optus picked up additional bandwidth in the Digital Dividend spectrum auction earlier this month.

As SmartCompany reported, Optus picked up two 10 MHz slots (20 MHz in total) in the 700 MHz band and two 20 MHz slots (40 MHz total) in the 2.5 GHz band for a total of $649,134,167 in the auction.

The investment comes as Optus’s parent company, SingTel, warns of a weakening smartphone market in fiscal year 2014.

“Optus is pursuing a strategy focused on improving yield, customer experience and network coverage to capture profitable growth in mobile data services. Optus’ EBITDA rose 3%, despite a 5% decline in revenue,” SingTel says in a statement.

“The Australian mobile market remains subdued and continues to be impacted by the mandated reduction in mobile termination rates. Optus is focused on improving yield and customer experience. Optus’s mobile service revenue is expected to decline by mid-single digit level.”

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