4G LTE for our wireless monitoring devices. What’s the big deal? In my mind it’s serious video verification. How come? Because along with its proposed future peak download of 300Gbps for applicable devices, 4G hustles a potential upload of 150 Mbps. That’s plenty. 

NOT getting the 1Gb national broadband we all wanted is disappointing but for alarm monitoring providers, installers and end users, 4G (using 1800MHz and 700MHz bandwidths) is going to offer a panacea. That’s because it will offer strong performance much sooner. 

Current speed tests published by CNET suggest Telstra 4G is 20.7 Mbps (down), 6.2 Mbps (up), 80ms ping; Yes Optus 4G is 18.3 Mbps (down), 8.3 Mbps (up), 84ms ping; while Vodafone AU is 33.9 Mpbs (down), 5.2 Mbps (up), with a 72ms ping. 

It goes without saying that we are unlikely to get all that performance, all the time and everywhere. There will be holes in the coverage, there will be contention and these and other sources of attenuation will shave performance. But even half this performance will be a game-changer across multiple applications, from video verification to remote monitoring of integrated video surveillance systems. 

What is 4G LTE? For a start, it’s an IP network – not a call-channel system like 3G. According to the International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) 4G services must offer compatibility of services within IMT and with fixed networks, capability of interworking with other radio access systems, high quality mobile services, worldwide roaming capability, and enhanced peak data rates to support advanced services and applications.

“The performance of the big 2 – Telstra and Optus – is important because many of our alarm monitoring solutions use both networks to give full redundancy.”

Something that’s great about 4G is that it melds disparate networks as mobile devices move around. That means a security manager might use paid 4G in one location and WiFi in another, depending on where they are on a site, and the handover is silky smooth with no drop-outs or latency. 

While there’s good 4G coverage in cities across Australia right now using Telstra 1800MHz bandwidth, Optus has catching up to do. This is because Telstra has enough capacity at 1800MHz to support its 4G network. Optus bought into 700MHz from the ACMA last year to expand its 4G services into regional areas – it needs additional metro and regional coverage to offer a complete service. 

The performance of the big 2 – Telstra and Optus – is important because many of our alarm monitoring solutions use both networks to give full redundancy. Presently, the requirement is for dual SIM designs, one for each network. But when the Optus 700MHz network is fully operational in March 2015, monitoring stations and installers will be able to drive alarm communications across the 2 networks using a single SIM. 

Current services

Telstra is the standout right now, with 20MHz of the available spectrum in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and 15MHz in Sydney and Melbourne. The company threw $A1.3 billion at 700MHz and 2.5GHz last year, buying 2 x 20MHz of the 700MHz spectrum and 2 x 40MHz of the 2.5GHz. 

It’s a powerful coverage that supports Telstra’s head start in 4G. Kicking off in 2011, the company powered up its 3500th base station and said it had 3.2 million 4G devices connected. Telstra’s 4G network supports 19.5 million Australians, or 85 per cent of the population. Along with big cities, Telstra has 300 regional towns covered and that’s important. 

In 2014, Telstra’s plan is to invest $A500 million to leverage faster 4G LTE technology to put more speed into its network, as well as increasing reliability and capacity. Further, Telstra says it will start using some of its low-frequency 900MHz 2G spectrum for 4G. That’s of interest if you are using 2G GPRS but any shift is likely to play out over 6-8 years. 

The telco is testing that first in north Brisbane and considering deployments in other regional areas. When they are released in the future, 4G devices supporting LTE Advanced will be able to combine the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for extra capacity.

Optus intends spending $A2 billion over 2 years on 4G. The company has 4G FD-LTE across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane and it has coverage in Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, the Gold Coast and the Central Coast. Optus also added 4G TD-LTE networks for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in September following a pilot in Canberra.

Mid-last year, Optus expanded the FD-LTE network in Adelaide and Wollongong and in December 2013, powered up 4G in Gosford and Somersby, with other central coast centres coming on line early this year. Optus 4G FD-LTE technology runs in the 1800MHz spectrum band, while the TD-LTE 2.3GHz network has superior performance but fewer devices. 

Optus paid around $A650 for 2 x 10MHz of the 700MHz spectrum and 2 x 20MHz of the 2.5GHz spectrum. While less than what Telstra took, Optus executives have said they were satisfied with the outcome.

Vodafone is another serious player with coverage in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle and Wollongong. Last month, Vodafone started a roll out of 4G in the ACT. It plans to invest $A1 billion in 4G over the next 2 years. 

Vodafone’s LTE over 1800MHz channel levers the 20MHz of spectrum Vodafone has in that band and with such a big hunk of bandwidth, Vodafone’s performance is in theory and in practice, if recent tests are anything to go by, should be superior to the competition. 

Thanks to its ability to support remote networking of a wide range of electronic security devices, there’s plenty to look forward to with 4G and best of all, it’s coming soon.

By John Adams