Telstra switches on 4G for MVNOs

Alex Kidman 29 April 2016

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Virtual operators on Telstra’s wholesale networks can now offer 4G access, although not quite at full Telstra speed.

We’ve known it was coming for some time, but Telstra has now formally switched over its Telstra Wholesale network, used by mobile providers such as Woolworths Mobile and ALDImobile, to 4G capability. Previously, MVNOs on Telstra Wholesale could only access "parts of" Telstra’s 3G network, which typically meant a slightly reduced national footprint (most obvious in the furthest parts of far north Queensland) and significantly lower access speeds for uploads and downloads.

Which MVNOs does this affect?

Telstra has opened up 4G access for any MVNO on Telstra Wholesale, which means that in theory any provider on the network can offer access. Woolworths Mobile, ALDImobile, TeleChoice and Better Life Mobile have all indicated that they’ll offer Telstra 4G. Southern Phone and CMobile, who offer a mix of Optus and Telstra plans, have yet to update their web sites to indicate that those plans will come with 4G capability.

As always, you’ll need a 4G capable device to access 4G services. Telstra is opening up its 1800Mhz and 700Mhz bands for access, as well as 2600Mhz services in selected areas. That should cover just about any 4G LTE device you’re likely to already have.

Sounds great -- what’s the catch?

One of the key reasons to opt for an MVNO is the promise of reduced prices. Given that Telstra’s notable for being the most premium-priced network in Australia, that’s an especially alluring prospect, but Telstra’s not quite giving the whole game away with the shift to 4G wholesaling.

Specifically, the 4G access it’s offering through Telstra Wholesale is capped at a download limit of 100Mbps, with expected customer speeds more likely in the 2-50Mbps range downstream and 1-10Mbps upstream. VoLTE services (which puts voice on 4G as well as data) are specifically not supported either. Meanwhile, Telstra is preparing for the release of its first Gigabit-capable "4GX" device on its own full network, expected to launch mid-year.

You can compare plans on offer from Woolworths Mobile, ALDImobile, TeleChoice and Better Life Mobile in the table below.

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