Telstra is set to become the first Long Term Evolution (LTE) network operator in Australia, with plans to launch the technology publicly in all Australian capital cities and some regional centres by the end of the year. The announcement comes shortly after New Zealand's Rural Broadband Initiative was awarded to a Telecom-Vodafone joint bid that will base the build on 3G technology, and a bid from another tenderer, OpenGate, that proposed a project based on LTE, lost out. The network will operate over the telco’s existing 1800MHz spectrum assets and will fall under the company’s Next G brand, but would not immediately replace the 3G/HSPA+ technologies currently used over the 850MHz in Australia. Instead, Telstra is expected to continue upgrading its existing Next G network, with new HSPA+ technologies providing “4G-like” maximum downlink speeds of 84 megabits per second (Mbps). Telstra chief executive David Thodey used his keynote at Mobile World Congress in Spain this week to announce the project, which will use Ericsson over competing vendors to provide the back-end equipment. “We see the integration of LTE technology into the Next G™ network as a way to continue to deliver high quality services and meet growing customer demand,” he said. The telco will offer dual-mode modems (pictured) supporting both technologies by year’s end, providing similar options to current LTE deployments over carrier TeliaSonera in northern Europe. The telco's LTE trials conducted with Ericsson last year yielded consistent speeds above 80Mbps. Under the upgrade, Telstra will also upgrade its packet core network to suit the Internet Protocol-based LTE technology. Telstra’s deal could effectively prove the death knell for future agreements with competing LTE vendors Huawei and Nokia Siemens, with whom the telco has also trialed the mobile broadband technology over differing bandwidths. While trials with Nokia Siemens have so far been isolated to the 2.6GHz spectrum - the only spectrum currently ratified for global roaming over LTE networks - Huawei trials to date have used the same 1800MHz bandwidth agreed to under the new Ericsson agreement. Huawei equipment scored a high of 150Mbps during tests last December. Huawei continues to have strong trials with other Australian carriers including vividwireless, which has considered upgrading its existing WiMAX network with TD-LTE technologies for average bandwidth of between 40 and 70Mbps. Optus has managed downlink speeds peaking at 50Mbps downlink speeds over Huawei gear during its first Sydney-based trials. Vendors including Ericsson have been reluctant to quote possible bandwidth speeds over LTE networks in real world use, instead spruiking the upgraded technology’s other benefits. - Additional reporting by David Watson
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