Telstra has announced a planned series of network upgrades throughout 2016. After successfully showing off 1Gbps LTE speeds at the end of 2015, Telstra will roll out the enhanced network in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane CBD areas "later in 2016."
This is all about the carrier taking the first steps on the road to the eventual 5G mobile broadband, the next step in mobile network standards. 5G boasts not only higher speeds, but also improved coverage areas and latency when compared to LTE networks.
In September 2015, the telco unveiled its Telstra WiFi 4GX Advanced III Mobile Broadband Hotspot, a Category 11 LTE device capable of theoretical speeds of 600Mbps. For the upcoming network upgrades, it's partnering with Netgear again on a Category 16 LTE hotspot, which will be the first commercial device able to hit those 1Gbps speeds. It's not just the download that will get a boost either: Compatible devices could see upload speeds up to 150Mbps.
In addition to raw speed, Telstra will be improving video and media broadcast capabilities, with LTE-Broadcast technology. Initially this means better live video and match updates in sporting stadiums and other arenas, but with the rollout of the related Media Optimised Network (MON) you could see easier access to software updates and even something Telstra is calling "content prepositioning": Pre-loading content on your phone so it's already there if you decide to access it.
High-quality video calling over LTE (ViLTE) is also on the cards, joining the already-launched Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for compatible devices. Voice over WiFi is coming in the first half of 2016, with customers using VoLTE soon able to have voice calls swap seamlessly from mobile data to home fixed broadband.
These changes lay the groundwork for Telstra partnering with Ericsson for a trial of 5G in Gold Coast during the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Telstra's Gold Coast test network is being based on current 5G tests being done by Telstra engineers over in Ericsson's research labs in Sweden. In what Telstra is calling a "complex, real world, indoor setting" the telco has seen speeds of 11Gbps. That speed would allow you to download 1,000GB of data in 13 minutes. That's slightly over 31 copies of the full HD version of "Frozen", by the way.
Of course, if you're in the Gold Coast in two years time attending what Telstra is qualifying as "one of the world's most advanced technology-enabled sporting events of the decade", you won't be getting that speed. But you will be involved in Telstra testing out some technologies that are being specifically designed for Australia's unique requirements.
"Australia is distinct in many ways with an environment and population, ranging from densely populated cities to its remote, sparsely populated outback," said Telstra's Group Managing Director of Networks, Mike Wright in a media statement. "The environment creates radio coverage challenges that stand out as vastly different to anywhere else in the world."
Telstra's not the only Australian carrier overhauling its network. Optus has partnered with Huawei to test what its calling 4.5G or the less catchy LTE-Advanced Pro. Trials at the Optus Gigasite in Newcastle saw an over the air peak download speed of 1.23Gbps.