Telstra currently provides LTE in all capital CBDs and more than 100 metropolitan and regional locations across the nation, about 40 percent of the population. The planned network expansion will see more than 1,000 new LTE base stations installed by mid 2013 increasing coverage to 66 percent of the population, Telstra says.
Telstra says there are now more than 340,000 LTE data only devices - dongles and WiFi hotspots - on the network and 160,000 LTE capable smartphones. Warwick Gray, Telstra's executive director Mobile, said: "Three years ago our smartphone penetration was 15 percent. It is now 50 percent of our postpaid base and nine out of 10 postpaid phones we sell is a smartphone.
"One in five smartphone owners say they intend to purchase a 4G device in the next year...We have five new 4G smartphones due to launch this calendar year. We expect that next year 80 percent of our mobile broadband devices we sell will be 4G and seven out of 10 handsets we sell will be HD." He declined to give any indication of when Telstra would introduce a prepaid LTE capable handset.
"Our 4G network today is the only 4G network on which you can actually make a voice call and we have implemented 4G voice as part of our 4G solution and we expect that most 4G handsets will support HD voice.
In Brisbane Telstra plans to more than double LTE coverage. It wil extend from Brisbane Airport in the East to Indooroopilly in the West and from Coopers Plains in the South to Chermside in the North. Coverage is planned for the Gold Coast from Surfers Paradise in the East to Nerang in the West and from Tugun in the South to Hope Island in the North.
Coverage in Sydney will more than double to stretch from Manly in the East to Greystanes in the West and from Kogarah in the South to Hornsby in the North. Canberra will get coverage from Queanbeyan in the East to Duffy in the West and from Farrer in the South to Moncrieff in the North.
Coverage in Melbourne will also more than double to stretch from Ringwood in the East to Werribee in the West and from Bentleigh in the South to Epping in the North. Adelaide coverage will stretch from Magill in the East to Henley Beach in the West and from Torrens Park in the South to Broadview in the North. In Perth it will extend from Maida Vale in the East to Fremantle in the West and from Willetton in the South to Dianella in the North.
Mike Wright executive director, Telstra Networks, said that traffic on the LTE network was growing at about 14 percent per month. "This will drive us to increasingly invest in 4G capacity...Last year we did about 5000 network expansions in capacity. We expect to do about one and a half times that this year. "
He added that the expanded LTE coverage would enable users of LTE capable devices presently using the 3G network to migrate to LTE, freeing up the 3G network for other users. "So we will get the most efficient use of the network." He added that, beyond the announced LTE coverage expansion, "We will increasingly expand the network where the highest demand is so the network will naturally expand.
Telstra however has no immediate plans to introduce voice over LTE. Wright said: "We are planning to test it in the next 12 to 18 months but that is one technology where we don't feel we need to be a leader."