Wireless internet has changed the way we work, communicate and play, but it’s not without its limitations. There’s few things more frustrating than needing a net connection while out and about, and either struggling through sub-par speeds that waver between tediously sedate and annoyingly inadequate, or simply realising that you’re in a coverage blackspot and there’s no data coverage for you at all.
The major players are investing in new towers and the promise of improved coverage and improved speed, but the most recent and most exciting speed news I’ve seen came not from the “big three” telcos, but instead a carrier investing in an alternate wireless broadband technology.
I recently attended a public demonstration of Vividwireless’ trials with a new type of wireless, called Time Division Duplex Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE).The trial network Vividwireless has set up runs between Redfern (the company’s Sydney base of operations, although it’s Perth-based in a national sense) and Zetland in Sydney’s inner city as well as Horsley Park in the outer west. In the demonstration in Redfern, Vividwireless was able to hit an impressive 128Mbps download speed, although that’s on a low usage trial network with, I suspect, a single user. Still, the company is quite bullish about its prospects, suggesting that users may see between 40-70Mbps in real world usage. If (and it’s a big if) that’s true, then it’s a nice speed boost for existing wireless networks in this country. The next fastest contender, Telstra’s dual channel HSPA+ offers theoretical speeds up to a maximum of 42Mbps, but only promises speeds in the range of 1.1-20Mbps.
Vividwireless currently operates a WiMAX network in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, but with a severely limited coverage footprint largely centred around the CBD of each capital city. The company’s plans (which may involve a mix of WiMAX and TD-LTE) call for covering up to 90% of each capital city (and others are on track to be offered shortly, with Brisbane noted as being a little behind schedule due to the flooding). Still, that’s well below the coverage map of the existing broadband players, with the possible exception of Three, and there it’s rapidly becoming a sub-brand of Vodafone anyway.
There’s no doubt that extra speed is very nice to have if you can get it, and at this stage Vividwireless is still only trialling TD-LTE with no absolute commitment to implement it. Company representatives stated that the switchover in hardware for existing WiMAX networks would be a very simple process, but any additional rollout would take time and money, and they were still mulling the possibilities. To date, Vividwireless has offered some very aggressively priced wireless plans, including an unlimited $79 per month plan, but with a limited area in which you could use the data. Great for inner city dwellers, but not so much for those on the fringes or regional areas.