Australia’s second largest cellco by subscribers Optus has announced that it has ‘significantly ramped up’ planning for its national 4G rollout by extending its 4G pilots in the 700MHz and 2600MHz bands to Perth and Darwin from the start of next week. In making the announcement the operator confirmed that trial spectrum licences had been secured from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) allowing it to carry out trials at five sites in Darwin and six sites in Perth. Speaking on the importance of the trials, Andrew Smith, Optus’ vice-president of mobile radio engineering, was cited as saying: ‘This is a vital step in Optus getting ready for its national 4G launch in the 700MHz and 2600MHz bands … Optus will be able to test our full spectrum stack from 700MHz to 2600MHz in Darwin and Perth across a decent sized footprint. By doing this, we are getting ready to launch our greatly expanded national 4G network, deliver a faster and more consistent mobile broadband experience to more Optus customers across Australia, and also finally bring competition in 4G services across regional Australia.’
It is understood that most testing will be completed within the first few months of the trial, though Optus claimed that throughout this year there would be ‘an ongoing need’ to test all new smartphones and other devices on these new spectrum bands before they are released for commercial sale. With the trials not accessible to members of the public, the operator has said its exiting mobile customers will not be affected, while it has reportedly worked closely with the ACMA, and the Australian Wireless Audio Group (AWAG) to minimise any potential impact during the trials on wireless audio devices, some of which still operate in the 700MHz band.