Telstra: 1Gbps hotspot, Wi-Fi calling, Video over LTE and 5G

Alex Kidman 21 February 2016


Telstra’s planning big, announcing a new 1Gbps-capable hotspot, Wi-Fi calling and Video over LTE for 2016, as well as preparing for a 5G future.

At Mobile World Congress, Telstra has announced several moves it’s making to build its network towards the still-to-be-finalised 5G standard, as well as announcing a new hotspot device it will launch on its existing 4GX network this year which will be capable of up to 1Gbps download speeds.

1Gbps Hotspot: One hot puck

The new hotspot device will, like existing Telstra hotspot devices, be produced by Netgear, based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon x16 chipset. Telstra indicated that it has been designed for Telstra first in collaboration with Netgear but that the design could be used for devices in other markets once it's launched in Australia.

It will ship with a 4,300mAh battery and be capable of managing up to 20 concurrent client Wi-Fi devices. Maximum download speed would be 1Gbps, although realistically you’re not likely to hit that limit in real world use. The hotspot will be a CAT16 device capable of upload speeds of up to 150Mbps, using carrier aggregation of three 20MHz channels along with MIMO broadcast technology to manage its speed. Where previous Telstra/Netgear hotspots have tended towards a standardised rectangular shape, Telstra indicated today that the new device will have "a new design, somewhat like a hockey puck".

In terms of network support, Telstra indicated that it would, as it has in the past, concentrate first on rollout in the CBD of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane before making the necessary network upgrades to enable 1Gbps capabilities elsewhere in the network. If you're outside of those areas, the hotspot should drop down to lower 4G LTE or 3G speeds depending on network availability.

Like existing Telstra hotspot devices, it will also be capable of acting as a device battery pack to charge external devices such as smartphones. Telstra hasn’t announced pricing for the device, which it expects will be the first CAT16 device to launch globally.

Video over LTE calling: Coming soon

Telstra also announced that it plans to introduce Video over LTE calling once compatible devices are present in the market. Telstra launched Voice over LTE (VoLTE) on its network last year, and today claimed more than 130,000 Australians had connected their devices for VoLTE calling. As the name suggests, Video over LTE allows for high quality video calls to be made over mobile networks.

You might be wondering how that differs from existing video calling services such as Skype or Facebook. According to Telstra, you’ll need to have devices and network support on both ends to make a Video over LTE call, but once that requirement is met, it will be a seamless experience where a video calling option is made present in the phone’s dialler, as distinct from launching a separate application such as Skype or Facetime.

Telstra expects to have Video over LTE capabilities by mid-year, according to Telstra spokespeople. While new devices are expected to support it, Telstra indicated that there were already devices in the market that could be software updated to support the Video over LTE capability.

Wi-Fi calling by mid-year

Telstra also indicated that it will add the ability to use Wi-Fi networks to boost network capabilities in areas where mobile signals currently struggle.

Telstra’s intention is to launch the capability by the middle of this year, with the core idea being that it will be a seamless experience that shifts you onto a Wi-Fi network as and when it’s needed.

Optus already offers Wi-Fi calling through a separate app for smartphones, but Telstra’s approach would see consumers receiving a software update to enable it on existing devices.

5G trials at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

The future of mobile is in 5G, but that’s a standard that’s still being sorted out. Telstra has indicated that, following 5G tests in Sweden with Ericsson, it would commence trials in Australia this year, with a special focus on testing out wider 5G capabilities at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

That’s still some time before the finalisation of 5G, and Telstra’s open to multiple approaches to 5G testing at the Games, including the possibility of device testing and 5G-style implementation for Internet Of Thing (IoT) style devices.

Check out all of our coverage from Mobile World Congress 2016.

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