Telstra has announced that in late August it will launch a commercial service running on a 4th generation mobile network – aka 4G.
Faster download speeds are the headline attraction of the move from 3G to 4G, as the new standard can hum along at 100 megabits per second (Mbps). That’s as fast as the wired connection on many older desktop computers and wired office networks. It’s also more than double the 42 Mbps top speed available on Telstra’s NextG today.
That’s the good news.
The less exciting news is that 4G will only work in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and only, as Telstra has been careful to point out, “within 5km from the GPO.” Telstra has also been very careful not to make any claims about the speed you’ll experience.
To use a 4G network you’ll need a new modem for your computer and Telstra has announced one (pictured) at “$0 upfront on the $49 Telstra Mobile Broadband Standard Plan over 24 months (minimum total cost $1,176) with 7GB included data.”
Should you care?
There’s no reason to queue all night to get your hands on 4G equipment, for a few reasons.
One is that the 4G kit Telstra will offer delivers 100Mbps as a peak speed only. We’ve all experienced the real world performance of wireless networks and know that there will be slow days, dropouts and general weirdness. 4G won’t be exempt from those phenomena, so you’ll almost certainly get a slower connection in the very limited area the carrier will initially cover.
Another is that Telstra will keep its 3G kit going for a good long while yet. It will probably be cheaper and on many occasions will get close to 4G speeds, so if you don’t need blistering speed you can save a few bucks.
A third is that what Telstra is calling 4G doesn’t achieve the speeds that telecommunications nerds say makes for a real 4G network. The international bodies who run this stuff say real 4G will be ten times faster again – one gigabit per second – than the stuff Telstra has announced.
(For those who like Acronyms, the stuff Telstra is rolling out uses the 3GPP Long Term Evolution standard. The really fast stuff is called LTE Advanced.)
So what’s the big deal?
It’s a grand achievement for Telstra to be confident it can throw the switch on an upgrade. But for you and I, the 4G network’s is so small and the likely real-world speed boost will likely be elusive. So mark this down as the march of progress in action, rather than a day of revolution.