However, he said, major 4G rollouts in Australia would have to await access to the 700Mhz wireless spectrum, which will be released as part of the 'digital dividend' when the nation finally switches as a whole to digital television and stops broadcasting analogue signals. 'That's the stage at which you are going to see major widespread consumer demand and acceptance,' O'Sullivan said.
The key driver for Optus deploying 4G, the executive said, was in fact the availability of end user devices (such as mobile broadband dongles and smartphones supporting the standard), which are not yet widely available.
Despite the comments, O'Sullivan noted he did see 4G/LTE as being 'very important', adding that Optus' parent Singtel was trialling the upcoming standard across its wider operations. 'We will launch 4G soon, and we'll do it when the market is ready,' he said.
In addition, Optus was also constantly investing in its existing 3G network, the chief executive said '” it had invested half a billion dollars in that network every year for the past five years, and was on track to do the same this year, with fibre backbone connections now having been laid to some 80 percent of metropolitan base stations, new spectrum holdings being purchased and an 'aggressive' metropolitan buildout adding base stations and capacity.
A spokesperson for Telstra said in a statement responding to O'Sullivan's comments this afternoon that its own recent figures around mobile broadband subscriber growth indicated interest in mobility remained 'strong' and that customers were 'more and more interested in reliable and consistently fast mobile connectivity'.