Australia switches on the first mobile gigabit LTE network in the world

31 Jan 2017

Sydney Harbour Bridge. Image: Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

Some of Australia’s biggest cities are to be the first locations in the world to get access to a gigabit LTE promising unprecedented broadband speeds, but many devices can’t even handle it yet.

While we are still some time away from the first introduction of a true 5G network for both the commercial telecoms market and the internet of things (IoT), Australia has just asserted its position as the first country to offer a big move from 4G to 5G.

Telstra, one of the largest mobile network providers in Australia, has announced that in partnership with telecom giants Qualcomm, Ericsson and Netgear, it has turned on its gigabit LTE network, a precursor to full 5G internet.

Compared with the typical 4G speeds that can reach a maximum of around 30Mbps, gigabit LTE will drastically increase download speeds to as close to 1Gbps, or in Telstra’s case, around 895Mbps.

So far, Telstra has made the service available in three Australian cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, revealing plans to expand this to the cities of Perth and Adelaide in the near future.

It will also be initially limited to a range of just 1km in the heart of each city’s business districts and, according to ZDNet, will be joined by a number of other networks internationally throughout the rest of 2017.

All of this is part of a “smoother journey to 5G”, according to Ericsson’s head of radio, Per Narvinger.

As part of the partnership, router manufacturer Netgear announced its latest Nighthawk M1 mobile router, which will be able to transmit speeds of up to 1Gbps. It will be made available in Australia first in February.

Existing 4G to receive major upgrade also

Until gigabit LTE becomes more commercially available, those in Australia using existing 4G services will be happy to know that Telstra’s existing network will be getting an upgrade.

The mobile network aims to have 300Mbps speeds for mobile customers across 80pc of its national coverage by 2019.

“We are well placed to evolve our 4G network, and are putting the building blocks in place for Australia to be ready for 5G,” said Mike Wright, group managing director for networks at Telstra.

“This will deliver more bandwidth and lower latencies, which are critical for emerging applications such as downloading 4K video, IoT, autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and shared virtual reality.”

Despite its availability, no smartphone on the market is compatible with gigabit LTE technology yet, but it will become available this year through phones that feature the Snapdragon 821 processor, such as the HTC U Ultra and U Play.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic