Optus Networks MD: 700MHz can turn 4G LTE from racehorse to workhorse

Optus Networks MD: 700MHz can turn 4G LTE from racehorse to workhorse

The first thing Günther Ottendorfer did when he took on his role at Optus was investigate the situation around allocation of the lucrative spectrum band.

The 700MHz spectrum band will be important for making 4G LTE a workhorse rather than a racehorse, according to Optus Networks managing director, Günther Ottendorfer.

He was speaking at Communications Day Summit in Melbourne.

Ottenorfer joined Optus in February.

With mobile data demands skyrocketing and showing no signs of slowing down, telco network operators have turned to LTE as a solution. The technology standard promises faster wireless data transfer speeds at longer distances compared to its predecessor, 3G.

Vividwireless claimed bragging rights as the first company to launch a 4G network in Australia with a mix of WiMax and LTE technology.

The country's biggest telco, Telstra, made its own 4G LTE network commercially available this month.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has been gradually upgrading its backend network assets with LTE capable equipment though it has yet to reveal when it will switch on its 4G network.

Last month, Optus announced its solid LTE plans with commercial services due to be available from April 2012.

Gunther, who has a wealth of experience in the telecommunications sector abroad, is enthusiastic about 4G LTE, partly because it is the first standard designed with data in mind.

Both Optus and Telstra have settled on using the 1800MHz spectrum for their initial LTE roadmap but most commerical operators are eyeing out the lucrative 700MHz band, which will be auctioned off by ACMA as part of the digital dividend.

If you want to bring mobile broadband services to more rural areas, this spectrum will be truly important and will have the virtue of making the rollout much faster than you could do with other spectrum bands.

“If you want to bring mobile broadband services to rural areas, to bigger parts of Australia, this spectrum will be truly important and will have the virtue of making the rollout [of LTE networks] much faster than you could do in other spectrum bands,” Ottendorfer said.

Emergency service organisations have lobbied hard to have a part of the 700MHz spectrum for a public safety mobile data network but that has not discouraged commercial operators from vying for that band.

“The first thing I did when I arrived here was investigate the spectrum situation in the digital dividend.” Ottendorfer said.

Optus has secured a scientific licence to test LTE services in the 70MHz spectrum with Bendigo, Victoria, as the trial site. The test should shed some light on how a 4G LTE service will perform in the 700MHz band in real world situations.

Gunther expects data transfer distances of 20-30km can be achieved by LTE with the 700MHz spectrum but that will depend on factors such as topography. He said Optus will be analysing this as part of the trial.

The testing phase is also important for testing out commercially available 4G LTE equipment.

“We can use the foundation of LTE services in the US and that will give us a huge variety of devices for the trial,” Ottendorfer said. “... I am a strong believer that with [the 700MHz] spectrum, you will see much more ubiquitous usage of 4G services and that will help the development of it from a racehorse to a workhorse.”

Communications Day Summit Melbourne continues.

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Tags TelstraTelecommunicationsoptusACMAVodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA)4G LTECommunications Day Summit


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