Telstra just launched a mobile network 10 times faster than the NBN

The Telstra test in Sydney. Photo: Tony Yoo

SYDNEY — Mobile internet has overtaken the NBN on peak speed, with Telstra today launching the world’s first Gigabit LTE network.

In a media demonstration in Sydney, a computer connected to Gigabit LTE was put through several tests on, connecting to a non-Telstra server. The peak speed reached 886Mbps – showing it was capable of downloading data up to 10 times faster than the maximum a home user can reach on the NBN.

There are currently 15 telecommunications operators in 11 countries planning or trialing Gigabit LTE, but Telstra is believed to be the first to go-live commercially with the technology.

Telstra partnered with infrastructure provider Ericsson, chip maker Qualcomm and networking vendor Netgear for the new mobile network. Netgear also today launched the world’s first Gigabit LTE device, the Nighthawk M1 mobile router.

Ericsson ANZ chief executive Emilio Romeo said that data consumption through mobile had hit the roof in recent years and predicted that each smartphone would chew through 11GB per month by 2022, compared to 1.9GB now.

“Average time watching video on a smartphone has more than doubled since 2011,” he said. “75% of mobile data traffic will be from streaming video by 2022.”

Live 3D footage streamed from Sydney Opera House through Telstra Gigabit LTE. (Source: Tony Yoo)

Gigabit LTE would first be rolled out to inner metropolitan areas, according to Telstra wireless engineering director Channa Seneviratne, with the network delivering 5 to 300Mbps to each device in realistic outside-the-lab conditions.

There was no announcement on updated mobile internet plans with higher data caps to accompany the faster speeds.

The NBN defended its offering, pointing out that mobile networks are not built for the same purposes as the national fibre network.

“1.5 million Australians can already access gigabit technology on the NBN network today, and this will grow to nearly 5 million by the end of the rollout,” an NBN spokesperson said. “Mobile networks would need a massive redesign to handle the current data consumption we are seeing on the nbn network.”

If 5G mobile technology turns out to be “comparable” to NBN services, the spokesperson said, the organisation would consider adding it to its portfolio. But current mobile offerings are too expensive to compete with the NBN directly.

“[Retail NBN providers] are offering unlimited data plans on the nbn for around $60 per month and the average NBN end-user is consuming around 150GB per month on the network – that sort of consumption would cost consumers hundreds of dollars per month on mobile broadband.”

Telstra networks group managing director Mike Wright said that not only would the Gigabit LTE capability serve our current thirst for streaming, the fast speeds would allow new technologies — everything from connected cars to toasters — to be introduced while the world waits for 5G, which is still a few years away.

“[Gigabit LTE] gives us a window into what 5G will deliver,” he said.

Telstra and Qualcomm staff demonstrated the virtual reality chops of the new network by showing a live feed of 4K 360-degree 3-dimensional video streamed directly from a camera on the Sydney Opera House foreshore and a 3D documentary streamed from YouTube.

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 mobile router can handle speeds of up to 1Gbps download and 150Mbps upload and 20 different devices connecting to its wifi network. The device will be available in February for $360 upfront or on subsidised plans through Telstra stores and online.

Netgear Nighthawk M1 mobile router (Source: Netgear)