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Telstra goes high voltage with world-first 600Mbps hotspot and 4G calling

Telstra is pulling out the stops on 4G, rolling out Voice over LTE '4G calling' and a new high-speed hotspot that offers speeds of up to 600Mbps on the telco's new 4GX network.

Telstra

Telstra has today announced two big 4G developments for its mobile network, offering Voice over LTE '4G calling' to post-paid mobile customers, and launching the world's first Category 11 device with a new 600Mbps-capable mobile hotspot.

The telco is pitching both launches as 'next generation' advances in connectivity for mobile customers, who are coming to expect fast speeds, seamless video streaming and frictionless voice calling as standard.

VoLTE calling

Voice over LTE calling is well and truly off the ground in the US, with AT&T and T-Mobile offering VoLTE in selected areas, and Vodafone completing trials of the technology earlier in the year. Now, Telstra customers can get a piece of the action.

In the words of Telstra's general managing director of networks Mike Wright, VoLTE is essentially "4G calling" that allows users to "maintain a full 4G experience" while they're talking on the phone.

Previously, a 4G-capable phone would need to bump down to the 3G or 2G network to connect a call, however VoLTE delivers voice and data over the same network for faster call connections and the ability to maintain 4G data speeds whilst talking on a smartphone. VoLTE users will also be able to experience "end-to-end" HD voice while making a call to a Telstra NBN service.

In our demonstration today, calls were connected incredibly quickly and, according to one of Telstra's LTE experts, a phone can begin ringing for an outgoing call by the time it's up against your ear.

Telstra has also described VoLTE as an "enabler" for future technologies, including higher definition audio, video calling over LTE and Voice over Wi-Fi calling (creatively dubbed 'VoWiFi'), the last of which is in testing and is expected to launch "inside 12 months." Because VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling can be seamlessly integrated, Telstra also demonstrated starting a call on VoLTE and switching onto Wi-Fi without hanging up.

"This is the beginning of the next generation of calling," said Wright.

The technology will be rolled out progressively from today and will require a compatible handset, with Telstra confirming that the "iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will be among the first enabled devices, along with Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ with Sony and other devices to follow shortly."

High-speed hotspot

VoLTE isn't the only next-gen technology that Telstra is focusing on in the mobile space.

The telco also used today to announce the launch of the Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III -- a long name for what is the world's first category 11 device capable of 600Mbps speeds, designed to make use of Telstra's 4GX network.

While 600Mbps is pitched as the "peak theoretical speed," the hotspot still clocked in download speeds of more than 500Mbps in a demonstration in Sydney's CBD, with upload speeds of just over 40Mbps.

And although Telstra admits the use cases for those kinds of speeds on a single stream aren't necessarily out there right now, the hotspot is capable of tethering up to 15 devices simultaneously whilst offering a faster overall experience. It's also designed for video hungry consumers who are demanding more in the media streaming space.

Wright said there has been an "explosion" in demand for video and media streaming, and the hotspot has been designed to help Telstra's network cope with this "data tsunami."

"It's not necessarily about everyone wanting to use 600Mbps; it's about the network being more efficient for their day-to-day use," said Wright. "Speed isn't just about the peak speed you can experience, it's about making the network more efficient so we can carry more users on the same cell."

The hotspot will let Wi-Fi devices access 4GX speeds in areas where the 4GX network is up and running, and will switch down to 4G or 3G depending on the coverage area, offering up to 11 hours of continuous use or 260 hours on standby.

The Telstra Wi-Fi 4GX Advanced III will be available from September 29, though pricing is yet to be confirmed.