Optus has announced the immediate rollout of 4G services in limited and central parts of Sydney and Perth, available to a select group of business customers. As ever this initial deployment staggers in laden with promises of future expansion and enhancement, some of which are slated to happen more or less immediately.
The Optus website carries almost no information, so don't bother looking for it there.
Where Is It Available?
As mentioned, the Optus 4G service is available right now in Perth and Sydney. That’s right, Optus customers could be enjoying ‘4G’ speeds at this very moment, presumably while reading this very post, provided they are within about 10kms of the CBD of the appropriate city, and number among the small proportion of business customers that can get their hands on a suitable device. More on these points below.
Furthermore, the necessary infrastructure upgrades have already taken place in Melbourne, and Optus expects services in that city to come online in late August (although some sources are citing September). Brisbane will be available ‘sometime before the end of the year’. Adelaide, poor Adelaide, will have to wait for 2013, but then I suppose we all do, at some level. In all, Optus claims to have already upgraded a total of 500 towers to 4G capability, with another 100 to be ready by the end of this month. Telstra announced back in May that it had switched on its 1,000th tower. Make of that what you will. Presumably the news that Telstra has more stuff than Optus will come as a surprise to no one.
How Fast Is It?
Optus has claimed that the final trials in the Hunter Valley were a runaway success, achieving downstream speeds superior those available on Telstra’s commercial network, and successfully inspiring vivid dreams in those members of the federal Opposition who still believe wireless is a viable alternative to the NBN. Optus declared an average download speed of 47Mbps, and peaks of up to 60Mpbs, with an average latency of 15ms. Lifehacker conducted its own trial, and found the Optus network and equipment could barely crack 14Mbps, whereas Telstra’s widely available service peaked at around 36Mbps.
Again, make of that what you will, but, as scenic as the Hunter Valley is, the real battle will be fought out in the capital cities. Expect the first real world comparisons to start rolling in soon.
Who Can Get It?
At the moment Optus 4G services are only available to customers with an ABN. Furthermore, only a limited number of 4G enabled devices have been released – several thousand – so it is quite likely that these will only be provided to enterprise customers. It should be stressed that Telstra used precisely the same rollout model last year. Again, this will of course be expanded to all customers before too long.
How Much Does It Cost?
The below table shows the initial pricing released by Optus. Bear in mind that these are mobile broadband plans.
How Can I Access It?
While Optus has made vague promises to release a range of 4G enabled handsets and tablets, these promises remain as yet unencumbered with details. Again, there’s no reason to suppose they would go to the trouble and expense of upgrading their network to 4G without selling phones that can use it. Expect them soon. But, for now, there are no details.
The initial deployment comes with only two devices – a single-user USB dongle and a Wi-Fi hotspot device the permits up to five users to connect simultaneously, not unlike the one Telstra has been flogging vigorously during the Olympic coverage. As mentioned, there are only a few thousand of these devices kicking about right now, and they're only available to customers with an ABN.
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