VHA, Optus reveal 1800 MHz LTE trials

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VHA, Optus reveal 1800 MHz LTE trials

Part two of iTnews' special investigation into the future of mobile broadband.

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Vodafone Hutchison Australia and Optus have shed new light on their respective trials of Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband technology in the 1800 MHz spectrum band.

A number of Australian telcos held spectrum in the 1800 MHz band, mostly for "GSM capacity offload", according to networking vendors.

Ericsson A/NZ strategic marketing manager Warren Chaisatien told iTnews yesterday that some operators might "re-farm and reuse existing 2G and 3G spectrum" – such as 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz - for LTE deployments "towards the end of 2012 or 2013".

Telstra has trialled LTE kit in the 1800 MHz spectrum.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) revealed its own trial in October which used 10 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. Both telcos used Huawei kit.

But Optus was a new addition to the 1800 MHz trial set. It previously conducted the first phase of its LTE trials in Sydney in the 2100 MHz band using 10 MHz of paired spectrum.

VHA trial

News of VHA's LTE trial was overshadowed at the time by the announcement of a major expansion of its existing 3G network.

The trial occurred near Newcastle, north of Sydney, achieving a maximum downlink speed of 74.3 Mbps and an "average uplink throughput of 5.6 Mbps".

iTnews can now also reveal that the test involved three mobile towers and "focused on speed, latency and coverage".

"VHA is currently planning further trials [that] will involve formal engineering test cases and detailed performance measurement both in the lab and in the field, including inter-system handover with 3G and self organising network (SON) functionality," a spokesman for the telco told iTnews.

SON systems automated the management of LTE networks, optimising network coverage, capacity, cell size and so on according to variables like signal strength and traffic.

"We'll be reviewing LTE as part of our longer term plans," the spokesman said.

"1800 [MHz] LTE is a potential option for VHA in the future. Globally, there are already other [operator] precedents in the same band."

New Optus trial

Optus has kicked off phase two of its LTE trials in Sydney.

The carrier was participating in a wider LTE trial run by parent SingTel, where each region would test out a different vendor's kit. Optus was using equipment from Nokia-Siemens Networks (NSN).

Phase one of its trial network – which consisted of two base stations at Gordon and Pymble on Sydney's leafy north shore – achieved maximum peak downlink speeds of 73 Mbps in the labs and "in excess of 50 Mbps" in drive tests.

The first phase tested download and upload speeds, ping times and basic handover between the two LTE base stations.

Full load testing and 2G/3G/LTE interoperability was to be tested in the second trial phase, which was now underway.

Optus' director of mobile networks Andrew Smith told iTnews that the phase two trial would run over a "wider operational area".

"We are expanding the pilot trial area to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs with a dozen sites in the 1800 MHz band," Smith said.

Telstra's view

Telstra's Wireless networks and access technologies executive director Mike Wright told iTnews yesterday that its trials in the 1800 MHz band proved it a "viable spectrum for LTE to operate in.

"But the other question to be answered is how mainstream the adoption of that band will be," Wright said. "We're not big enough in Australia to set worldwide trends [for spectrum use]."

Read on to page two to find out the carriers' plans for moving to LTE and how long they will sweat existing HSPA+ assets.

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