Optus has launched Australia's second LTE network by offering free service and devices to select customers.
Using Huawei infrastructure, Optus activated FDD-LTE service late last week across the wine-producing Hunter region, with coverage available in greater Newcastle, Maitland, Port Stephens and areas in the Hunter Valley. The operator is using the 1800 MHz frequency band, which it is refarming from 2G service.
Optus said it will provide more than 1,000 select business and residential customers with LTE service and devices for free in exchange for their feedback on network performance and device capability. Optus will use this customer feedback to optimize its planned rollout to the large metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth starting in mid 2012. Phase two of the rollout will include Brisbane and Adelaide from the first half of 2013.
"By working with our customers to gather their feedback, Optus aims to continually enhance its 4G network and ensure that customers have an outstanding experience now, and into the future," said Gunther Ottendorfer, Optus managing director of networks.
Customers receiving the free LTE service will initially be provided with wireless dongles, with business customers also receiving mobile Wi-Fi adapters. LTE-compatible handsets are expected to arrive in the coming months.
Optus' LTE network follows the launch of Telstra's late last year in major cities and regional centers. As with Optus' recent LTE rollout, Huawei supplied Telstra's LTE network. Vodafone Australia is also reportedly planning to launch LTE services but has offered no firm dates. Rumors began circulating last month that Vodafone Australia was being offered to prospective buyers in Asia and Europe by its joint owners Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa.
Optus also intends to build a metropolitan TD-LTE network on the 2.3 GHz spectrum that it gained by purchasing Seven Group's Vividwireless in February 2012 for $240.6 million (A$230 million). Vividwireless had built out WiMAX extensively in Perth and had some coverage in Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne but was already planning to replace WiMAX with TD-LTE prior to being bought out by Optus.
Australia's mobile operators are expected to use 700 MHz digital-dividend spectrum for LTE once it becomes available. The Australian Communication and Media Authority intends to auction spectrum in the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands later this year.
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