With Telstra and Optus in the process of expanding their up-and-running 4G LTE networks, customers in metropolitan and some regional locations are already experiencing the benefits of crazy fast speeds and seamless browsing and downloading.
Being the only two carriers with their own 4G network gives both companies a distinct advantage over rival telco Vodafone – still yet to roll out its billion dollar upgrade – and over the smaller providers (mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs) piggybacking Optus, Telstra or Vodafone coverage (not including the Optus-owned Virgin Mobile, who are offering customers 4G).
Despite the large amount of Australian telcos being powered by the Optus network, almost none of the MVNOs using Optus’ coverage are at this time providing customers with 4G smartphone access – meaning that consumers with 4G compatible phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII and iPhone 5, are more likely to take their business to Optus, Telstra or Virgin Mobile in order to take full advantage of their device’s capabilities.
We’ve been making enquiries as to when Optus’ MVNOs will have their own 4G offerings available, and the general consensus so far is sometime in the first half of 2013. Vaya are expecting to introduce 4G in February 2013, but as yet can’t guarantee customers won’t have to wait a little longer.
Spintel and Dodo are also working to provide 4G in early 2013, with Amaysim similarly giving us the ‘first half of 2013’ timeframe and hoping to stock nano SIMs for customers soon (no word on if the telco is still graciously offering to cut existing customers’ micro SIMs into nano SIM size for free).
The only exception we’ve found so far is Live Connected who, according to its website, has started offering 4G LTE to customers purchasing either the Nokia Lumia 920 or Samsung Galaxy Note II on a post-paid plan. Live Connected doesn’t offer the iPhone 5 as part of a post-paid contract, but does have nano SIMs in stock for customers looking for a SIM only plan. Currently, 4G isn’t available to SIM only customers; there’s no update yet on when that will change.
The good news: providers have assured us that existing nano SIM cards won’t need to be upgraded when 4G is introduced in order to access it. This means iPhone 5 users only able to access 3G now, can continue using their current SIM and be able to connect to 4G automatically as soon as it’s switched on in their area. The same applies for customers with 4G compatible handsets using a micro SIM – no new SIM card will need to be purchased, or any further configuration required.
Meanwhile, Vodafone is still working to switch on 4G in metropolitan areas next year, so for small operators using the Vodafone network such as Crazy John’s or TransACT, the wait looks set to continue.
And Telstra still appears to be keeping its 4G network to itself for the time being, with no plans to allow wholesale access to any of its small number of resellers.