Optus customers: get ready for some serious network upgrades

23 June 2014

On top of Optus’ new suite of MyPlan Plus offerings, some big network upgrades are on the way over the next year. After teasing two new spectrum frequencies for what seems like ages now, the “Yes” telco is reportedly set to go live with its 2500MHz and 700MHz networks within the next 6-12 months.

What does that even mean?

Mobile networks operate over radio frequencies, which means that providers need to keep off of each other’s turf to avoid mixing the signal. It’s kind of like radio stations. You couldn’t have two DJs in the same area sending their tunes out over 104.1 and the same is true for phone activity; it’s just that phones operate over much higher frequencies.

Last year Optus bought a large chunk of the 700MHz and 2500MHz spectrum bands. The reason this won’t interfere with, say, Telstra’s 700MHz network is that while Telstra may be working from 700MHz through to 719MHz, Optus could then focus on 720MHz through 739MHz. This is all considered to be within the ‘700MHz spectrum’ and every piece of it is dearly bought and paid for from the government by each telco.

Essentially, Optus is about to expand its 4G network to cover a larger area of frequencies.

Ok, what does it mean for me?

Operating multiple frequency bands in the same geographic area is good for two reasons. The first is to relieve congestion. If you have a whole heap of customers using your 1800MHz band and it starts to clog up, you can always shift a few of them over to your 2500MHz network and smooth things out a little.

The second is that lower frequencies, such as 700MHz, are less hindered by physical obstacles like buildings and walls. That means better reception when you’re inside, or when moving amongst the sea of sky-scrapers that comprise the modern city. Low frequency networks are the holy grail for mobile network providers.

When will I get it?

The 2500MHz network is expected to go live "potentially" before or around October this year (2014). This is a higher frequency network, so it’s likely to be used more for congestion support rather than as a stable network backbone.

The 700MHz frequency will be the big gun in Optus’ arsenal. It will hopefully be switched on around March next year (2015), if not before.

These upgrades, if they go smoothly, will largely go unnoticed by Optus customers. That’s always the case with utility services. It takes a lot of effort to make an experience forgettably easy.

At least now you may be on the lookout for that slight bump in network Optus reliability over the next 12 months.

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