Optus held a small but lively event today outlining its network expansion so far in 2012 and some of its plans for 2013. Among the talk of the wireless broadband race and increased 3G reception were also some of the 4G LTE devices that Optus will be offering, or is already offering, on its new 4G infrastructure.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
The Galaxy Note 10.1 was a big attraction, so we didn’t get too much time with it. However, it was fast, fluid and appeared visually different enough from an iPad to avoid legal problems with Apple. At least, in our opinion.
The Note 10.1 looked to be everything we had hoped the original HTC Flyer to be. It has a relatively current version of Android (ICS 4.0), but that still could be better. It also sports impressive hardware and a fantastic-looking screen.
Samsung has already proven how well it can do stylus integration with the Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II, although we’re yet to review the latter, so we’re not too concerned as to whether or not the Note 10.1 can pull it off based on these successes.
Samsung Galaxy S3 4G
The Galaxy S3 4G is basically a more powerful version of the original Galaxy S3, except running on Jelly Bean 4.1 and boasting 4G LTE connectivity.
Don’t take that in a bad way; the Galaxy S3 4G is probably our favourite Android smartphone on the market right now.
We have been known in the past to take issue with manufacturers like Samsung releasing too many ‘flagship’ smartphones over a short period, but with the Galaxy S3 4G we find ourselves forgiven the prolific Korean OEM.
Everything that was awesome about the S3, except with 2GB of RAM, an updated OS and 4G LTE connectivity? Yes please.
Samsung Galaxy Note II
The Note II was probably the gadget we were most keen to try out. The original Note was a big win in our books and, thankfully, its successor seems to be a great step forwards.
A term often used in the tech industry is ‘evolution, not revolution.’ This pretty much perfectly describes the Note II. It’s faster, has a bigger screen and it’s seen a range of improvements to S-Pen functionality and hardware. The new, longer S-Pen is much easier to hold than its predecessor and the new rubberised tip feels much better than the old metal option.
The Note II was incredibly smooth and quick and, despite the larger screen, didn’t feel overly big in the hand. That is to say, it didn’t feel overly big for a phablet. The Galaxy Note II is still massive for a smartphone-type device, but folks with big hands who are after a more screen-centric experience shouldn’t have to worry too much.
Overall, we were impressed with the Note II and can’t wait to get our hands on one for review.
HTC One SV
The HTC One SV is essentially a 4G LTE version of the popular HTC One S. We found the One S to be a solid mid-range contender when we reviewed it and we weren’t disappointed with the One SV. We would take issue with the name, seeing as there is already an HTC One V smartphone, but we gave up on finding sense in smartphone titles a long time ago.
We would also grumble a little about the physical design, as it seemed to lack the usual finesse we’ve come to expect from HTC. But the One SV felt so incredibly light. 122 grams might sound similar to many of the other smartphones out there, but for one with not only a 4.3 inch display but also 4G LTE support, it was appreciably lighter than all the other gadgets at the show. Or, at least that’s the impression it gave.
Despite its lower resolution of 480×800, the One SV’s screen was still pretty good. It boasted vibrant colours and clear whites. Blacks were fairly dark, but not so much as what we’ve been seeing recently from Nokia with its Lumia series.
The Nokia Lumia 820
The Lumia 820 was there, of course. We’ve already done a whole Nokia Lumia 820 first impressions post, so we won’t go in to too much detail (spoilers: we’re fans).
We did get to see the difference between the standard and wireless-charging cases; the standard being of the glossy variety and the charging boasting matte colours. Although should you go with black it’s a matte-finish for both options.
The charging cases and wireless charging pad will be sold separately once they’re in stock. It might seem silly at first but it’s essentially to encourage users to buy a couple of different colours, in case you feel like switching things up every few months.
Optus’ 2012 and 2013 Network Expansion
Optus has expanded its network significantly in 2012, launching a new 4G LTE network, upgrading its old 3G network and even launching a 3GPlus network, similar to Vodafone’s 3G+, in areas where it does not yet support 4G.
Optus 3G Upgrades
Optus 3G this year, in the words of Optus Networks’ Managing Director, Günther Ottendorfer, has seen a “massive modernisation”. Optus has reportedly taken its old 2G 900MHz network and upgraded it to 3G across the spectrum, terming it 3GPlus. This is actually much better than simply adding a new frequency for two reasons:
- First, and most obvious, is that a new frequency could mean that new phones would be required to run on it, as current phones may not support the new spectrum.
- Second, and often overlooked, is the now damaging trend of going higher and higher in to the frequency spectrum. Higher frequencies tend to function over shorter distances and are less effective at penetrating solid structures like buildings. Unfortunately, most of the lower frequencies in Australia and around the world are still being used up by antiquated technologies like analogue radio broadcasting and short-wave radio communications. This means that newer, more advanced technologies like 4G LTE are beginning to suffer, as the only place we can go is up.
It’s also good to see that, despite the new 4G race between Optus and Telstra, Optus has not forgotten about its 3G network. Ottendorfer even referred to 3G as Optus’ “workhorse”, as it still handles most of Optus’ wireless broadband traffic.
According to Günther, the Optus 3G network’s 3G reception has improved by over 87% indoors this year, with plans to push that to 95% in the coming months. Indoor reception improvements are not something that usually gets advertised in the tech business, as most networks usually talk about the length and breadth of their domains, rather than the consistency between outdoor and indoor speeds.
Optus 4G Upgrades
2012 has been a big year for 4G LTE and Optus. This year so far, Optus has launched commercial 4G LTE networks in Newcastle, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and now 50 sites in Brisbane. Plans are already under way to expand current networks and open in new centres in 2013. Brisbane in particular will see its current coverage doubled to around 100 sites, Adelaide should hopefully see coverage before mid 2013 and Canberra will get a TD-LTE network in March/April.
TD-LTE (Time-delayed LTE) is a form of LTE that can boast even faster speeds than Australians have already seen. Optus claims that in media-trials users consistently saw between 25Mbps and a whopping 87Mbps down. 87Mbps is incredibly fast. By comparison the fastest we’ve yet received with standard 4G LTE is 45.6Mbps and that was in the middle of Sydney where reception is very strong. The fastest possible speed for ADSL2+ landline connections is around 24Mbps.
A Big Year for Optus
Optus seems to have had a big year for network expansion and, with its 2013 plans laid-out, things don’t look to be quietening down any time soon. We really just love anything to do with expanding broadband networks and increased internet speeds, especially when it can do nothing but spark more competition from other providers.
2013 should hopefully prove to be a big year for 4G network expansion and we certainly can’t wait to hear how TD-LTE fares in comparison to current networks. Now if only 2012 would hurry up and end…