Telstra has given mobile users a taste of the future, with announcements of its work on next-generation wireless broadband, including LTE-Advanced, LTE-Broadcast and HetNet technologies.
Telstra has announced the roll-out of new wireless broadband technologies set for trials and roll-outs through 2013 and beyond, taking us beyond the first generation of 1800MHz 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. Growth to date has been rapid, with 1.5 million customers already using 4G smartphones and devices.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, Telstra chief operations officer Brendan Riley announced that as part of the ongoing LTE roll-out, Telstra expects to cover two thirds of the Australian population by June 2013. Telstra will build 1000 4G base stations this year.
Most exciting amongst the announcements was the road forward for LTE, with Telstra getting ready to deliver some world-leading trials and roll-outs of major upgrades to LTE technology — 900MHz, LTE-Advanced, LTE-Broadcast and HetNet technologies.
Telstra announced the roll-out of 900MHz LTE networks, which are generally considered as being the "better" frequency for longer-range performance — a big step forward for delivering LTE to regional areas. This has been expected for some time, simply being a factor of managing the transition away from older 2G networks that have run on the 900MHz spectrum.
Some sites are already running 900MHz LTE, and Telstra said this is working "as expected". Telstra expects 900MHz-compatible devices to ramp up throughout 2013.
With the addition of 900MHz spectrum to the LTE landscape, Telstra announced that it will introduce LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) technology later this year. LTE-A combines 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum together to deliver greater network capacity.
Telstra indicated that it has been in discussion with device manufacturers to get LTE-A-compatible devices ready for market, and it expects Sierra Wireless to lead the way.
LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B), which has also been known as EMBMS, aims to introduce a multicast capability to the network in order to alleviate congestion. Once LTE-B is operational, when the network detects many users attempting to access the same piece of content at once, it will shift to broadcasting the content within the local cell, rather than having every user continue to pull the content directly.
Live streaming a major event in dense population areas (like a stadium) where dozens of simultaneous identical streams could be reduced to a single stream shared by the network locally is one example of how currently notorious congestion issues would be alleviated with LTE-B technology.
While LTE-B will help in certain situations, anyone who spends much time in a CBD or at a football stadium knows how choked the networks can get — and smarter content streams won't solve that problem by itself.
A HetNet (heterogeneous network) is a small-cell technology that aims to complement the core network in busy locations. It targets those very high-traffic areas to manage load in a much more localised fashion.
Telstra said it is trialling HetNets in dense areas already.
Telstra said it expects customers to use as much mobile data in 2013 as was used in the past two years combined. It hopes that through the combination of the above roll-outs and upgrades, the network will keep up with demand and improve overall performance.