Operators are increasingly looking to use LTE for fixed broadband services, mainly to fill rural gaps in wireline coverage, or where they have no fiber or copper assets. Verizon and AT&T, as well as many carriers in emerging economies, have such plans, and Australia‘s Optus is the latest example. Like AT&T, it is considering LTE as an option to replace ADSL over time.
The operator is overhauling its wireless broadband division and as part of that effort, is about to start trials of fixed LTE for homes in major cities, initially confined to about 200 of its own staff in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide. The three-month test will see those employees using a 4G modem in place of their usual wireline broadband service.
The trial is being headed by Martin Mercer, now managing director of the fixed division, but previously with VividWireless, the broadband wireless start-up operator which Optus acquired in February 2012. This company had rolled out Wimax networks in major cities but Optus has been closing down those systems and replacing them with TD-LTE.
VividWireless brought its new parent 98 MHz of unpaired spectrum in the 2.3GHz band, which could be very valuable to complement Optus‘s fixed broadband offerings as well as its FDD LTE roll-outs in refarmed 1.8-GHz and, in future, in 700-MHz and 2.6-GHz. Canberra was the first city to see the 3x20MHz TD-LTE network activated and the carrier is pursuing a multiband strategy, somewhat like Sprint‘s, which it dubs “4G Plus”. The next step will be carrier aggregation to maximize speed and capacity.
On the fixed wireless side, Mercer says Optus will be able to provide dedicated bandwidth for these services to ensure quality of service. He said in a statement: “This Optus Home Wireless Broadband trial is about putting our powerful 4G Plus network through its paces to understand the full potential of what we can delivery for our customers — not just in mobile, but also home broadband. This is not just in terms of speed and experience, but also how we manage our 4G Plus network to actively prevent a customer's connection changing, wavering or dropping off during busy times.”