Hot on the heels of Telstra’s announcement of their “GigabitLTE” 4G network, Optus has today announced the beginning of their 4.5G network rollout in Australia..

Initially available around Macquarie Park in Sydney where Optus’ own headquarters are located, within 12 months the roll-out will hit 70% of the Optus network in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

The area around Optus’ headquarters will be covered by around 20 base-stations upgraded to the 4.5G technology which will give the 90,000 residents in the area and many businesses a taste of what’s to come with 5G.  It also gives Optus a live test area for these new higher speed technologies.

If you’re confused about what 4.5G is – don’t worry, we all are – it’s essentially a capacity upgrade for the existing 4G network.

5G is the true next generation of networks and there will be a lot of talk about that over the next week in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress, and over the next few years as a consumer 5G network draws near.

Managing Director of Networks at Optus, Dennis Wong

4.5G and likewise Telstra’s GigabitLTE are improvements to the existing 4G network that are enabled through upgrades at the towers, and through new handsets.  Optus describes 4.5G as a step in their network evolution toward 5G.

Optus say in their testing speeds of 1.03Gbps were achieved – on the Optus campus in Macquarie Park – these speeds are on a fixed wireless commercial product, not a consumer modem or handset.

Optus CEO Allen Lew said today this “Gigabit test” will be a true window into 5G which promises 30Gbps speeds and more.

Their 4.5G network is being built in partnership with telco giant Huawei, using technologies known as 4CC/5CC Carrier Aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM.  Good luck understanding what all that means.

Optus CEO Allen Lew said today “Today we will be the first telco to amp up our plans for 5G” going on to say this will “allow us to move to the next level of delivering reliable high-speed services, which is to move to Gigabits of speed”

5G is still years away (2020 is the plan – we might see a smaller launch prior), the worldwide standards won’t be confirmed until the end of the year, however Optus is keen to get a head-start – they already have the spectrum needed to operate an advanced 5G network – Optus have 90MHz of the 3.5GHz spectrum that will power 5G when it launches.

All this plays into Optus’ plans to build a network that caters directly to what customers want from their mobiles today.  Video.  We’re watching more video than ever, and that’s not going to slow down.  Optus believe their network is engineered specifically to ensure the streaming needs of consumers are met.

The reality for everyday consumers is that 4.5G offers additional capacity.  If you’re an Optus customer who has a device that’s “capable” of 100mbps, but you’re getting 20mbps more regularly, the hope is your speeds will double or triple – many devices today are capable of 150mbps speeds, so this new upgrade and capacity should result in great new speeds for even existing handsets.

As new devices come to market they will have additional speeds. This will only improve as devices are launched.

If you live near the Optus HQ in Macquarie Park – you are one lucky duck:)