What is LTE / 4G ? LTE in Australia

What is 4G/ LTE? All 3 Australian networks now offer 4G/LTE data speeds. We explain what that means.

Australian 4G/LTE data speeds offered by all of the major phone companies provide very fast broadband data speeds to your phone or mobile broadband device.

Knowing what 4G means can come in handy when you’re choosing a mobile phone service provider or contract. Today’s newest mobile phones come equipped with LTE /4G.

If you are like most people, and you live  in the real world instead of a phone company networking department, you might not even know what LTE / 4G means. Get ready ! It’s going to make an enormous difference to how much you enjoy having and using your mobile. Almost any new mobile phone you buy which costs more than $400 is going to have LTE capabilities. An increasing proportion of people have LTE on their phones.

 

4G LTE phone

Most new high end phone releases are LTE enabled

 

What is the best 4G deal in market ?

If you had to boil it all down to a single sentence, LTE means data comes down more quickly to your device. LTE / 4G is super fast internet access. It’s likely to be faster downloading a web page on your LTE phone than doing the same thing on your home laptop over a fixed broadband connection.

4G is increasingly sold only by the main networks – Optus, Vodafone, Telstra and Virgin Mobile. Telstra and Vodafone do not allow network resellers like Lebara or Boost Mobile access their 4G network. That relegates these providers to providing second class 3G speeds. That’s fine for older phones and prepaid customers ( most of whom have an older phone ) but if you want 4G, you’re left looking at substantial pricing from the major phone companies.

It makes much more sense to buy your phone outright yourself and add a SIM Only plan than it does to do anything else.

 

Best SIM Only Plans April 2018

Boost Mobile | Best Prepaid Data Rates On The Full Telstra Network

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Prepaid | 28 day expiry | On The Telstra Mobile Network 3G+4G

Boost Mobile are a reliable brand. They are the only phone company other than Telstra to resell the full Telstra ‘Retail’ Network. With Boost you’ll get:

  • The full Telstra Mobile Network
    Other phone companies resell part of the Telstra Mobile Network. Only Boost and Telstra plans allow you access the whole thing.
  • Free streamed audio:
    Data free streaming of Apple Music (requires subscription) on top of the data included in your plan.
  • A range that includes 7 day and 28 day plans:
    Boost offer a selection of plans including 7 and 28 day variants.
  • Recharge options from $10 to $50:
    Boost have a total of 5 recharge options for their prepaid plans, ranging between $10 and $50.

Boost Mobile Plans For Your Mobile

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Boost Mobile review.

CHECK  BOOST MOBILE PLANS

 

Belong Mobile | Fairest For Data

Best Data Plans 2018

 

 

 

Postpaid | Month to Month agreement | On The Telstra Mobile Network 3G+4G

Belong sell access to the Telstra Mobile Network. They have a simple to understand plan structure with options on data, national ($5 extra) and international calls ($5 extra.) Belong also offer the fairest treatment of data that any phone company in Australia have. a ‘data vault’ feature. Whatever data you buy, is yours, forever. It just keeps rolling over until you use it or leave them.

With Belong, you’ll get:

  • Data Vault:
    All Belong’s Mobile plans come with ‘data vault’. When you buy your data, it just keeps rolling over until you decide to use it or leave them!
  • $5 National Calls:
    Belong’s price plans are data first. If you want to add Unlimited Australian National calls, it’ll cost you $5 a month, on top of the price of your data.
  • $10 International Calls:
    And if you want to make Unlimited International Calls (to 10 selected destinations – or to 23 selected countries’ landlines) just add $10.

Belong Plans For Your Mobile

  • Belong Mobile $25 = 15GB of 4G data (5GB plus 10GB welcome gift).
  • Belong Mobile $40 =45GB of 4G data (15GB plus 30GB welcome gift).
  • Belong Mobile $30 = Unlimited National Calls & SMS + 15GB of 4G data (5GB plus 10GB welcome gift).
  • Belong Mobile $35 = Unlimited national calls & SMS + 15GB of 4G data (5GB plus 10GB welcome gift) with international calls & SMS to selected countries.
  • Belong Mobile $45 = Unlimited National Calls & SMS + 40GB of 4G data (15GB plus 30GB welcome gift).
  • Belong Mobile $50 = Unlimited National Calls & SMS + 45GB of 4G data (15GB plus 30GB welcome gift) with international calls & SMS to selected countries.

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Belong Mobile review.

CHECK BELONG MOBILE SIM PLANS

 

OVO Mobile – Free Video & Radio Content

Best Entertainment plans - 2018

 

 

 

Prepaid | 30 day expiry | On the Full Optus 3G and 4G Network 

OVO’s offer a totally new way of looking at a phone company – they’re one of our best selling partners. Their plans are, pretty much on a par for data inclusions with the best in the industry. In addition to talk time, SMS and data, OVO’s plans include exclusive access to exclusive video content. All of OVO’s plans come with ‘OVO Play’ an app which lets you watch their free content on your plan. With OVO, you’ll get:

  • Free Video Content – Motorsport, Sailing, Gymnastics & Water Polo :
    OVO offer a growing list of free video and audio content. Motorsport fans might like the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series, Australian GT, Formula Drift and other petrol head live streaming. OVO Play also includes other sports like sailing and gymnastics. The price of the content is included in the monthly line rental charge you pay OVO for your prepaid plan. So, importantly: You won’t see your data balance decline while you’re watching them, the streamed content is free.
  • Free Streamed Audio:
    OVO’s plans also offer FREE radio streaming, also included in your plan offers access to the Tripple M network and other selected stations.
  • OVO for Kids:
    OVO’s plans come with the offer of free access to Parental Lock software. Buy your child the $9.95 plan from OVO and you’ll be able to monitor what they access on their phone and set times for it to turn off and turn on it’s own connection to the internet.

OVO Plans for your mobile

Picking an OVO plan is simple. All of OVO’s plans include Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers plus superfast 4G data.

  • $9.95 UnlimitedAdvertisement = $200 standard calling and unlimited SMS / MMS + 1GB of 4G data. Save 50% for each of the first 3 months.
  • $19.95 UnlimitedAdvertisement = $500 standard calling and unlimited SMS / MMS + 2GB of 4G data. Save 50% for each of the first 3 months.
  • $29.95 UnlimitedAdvertisement = Unlimited national Talk and Text in Oz + 5GB of 4G data. Save 50% for each of the first 3 months.
  • $34.95 UnlimitedAdvertisement = Unlimited national Talk and Text in Oz + 10GB of 4G data. Save 50% for each of the first 3 months.
  • $49.95 UnlimitedAdvertisement = Unlimited national Talk and Text in Oz + 19GB of 4G data. Save 50% for each of the first 3 months.

You can learn more about them and their unique content in our OVO review.

CHECK  OVO MOBILE SIM PLANSAdvertisement

Kogan Mobile – Best Value on the Vodafone Network

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Prepaid | 30 day expiry | On the Full Vodafone 3G and 4G Network 

Kogan Mobile keep it simple. They have some of the most competitive SIM Only / Prepaid plans in Australia, on the much improved Vodafone network. With their multi month recharge options, Kogan add some genuine value and choice to the market.

With Kogan, you’ll get

  • Monthly, quarterly or annual options : Do you want a single recharge payment with a 1, 3 or 12 month validity ? With Kogan, you’ll get discounts for multi-month purchases you were going to make anyway. They add the convenience of less frequent running out / topping up. And they keep the total predictability and flexibility of prepaid.

Kogan’s 30 day plan range :

Kogan’s 30 day plans all have Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers. The difference is the amount of data which is included.

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. See all Kogan Plans including 90 day and 365 day plans. You can find out more about this company in our Kogan Mobile review.

CHECK  KOGAN MOBILE PLANS

 

Great Value Data & Best For International Calls

International Calls 2018

 

 

 

Prepaid | 30 day expiry | On the Full Vodafone 3G and 4G Network 

If you’re after an unlimited plan with incredible data inclusions, or you make calls overseas, in our view, you need look no further than Lebara. Lebara use the much improved Vodafone 3G + 4G network which covers more than 96% of Australians. With Lebara, you’ll get :

  • Big Data on the Vodafone 3G + 4G network:
    Lebara’s plans include enough data for even the most ravenous data eaters.
  • Broad Range Including Plans With International Calls:
    Lebara have Unlimited International Call plans at $29.90 and $49.90 price points. Lebara’s cheaper international call rates cover all the major destinations including : UK, USA, Greece, China, Canada, Germany, Denmark, France, South Korea and Switzerland. (Inclusions vary, see our review.)
  • Multi-Month-Options:
    Lebara have 30 day plans, 180 day plans and 360 day plans. Buy up-front and save.

Lebara’s prepaid plan range:

You can find out more about this company in our full Lebara Review.

CHECK LEBARA MOBILE PLANS

 

How are 3G / LTE / 4G different ?

3G / 4G / LTE indicate the data download and upload speeds that your device will receive.

3G has been available in handsets for the last 5 or 6 years. If you’ve had an iPhone or another type of Smart Mobile Phone in the last 5 years, it’s almost certainly been ‘3G’ enabled. 3G offered download speeds in Australia from 300 kbps to 1.5 Mbps. LTE / 4G is much faster than 3G.

Typically, in Australia, LTE devices are currently capable of download speeds of 2-20 Mbps. That’s 10 – 20 times faster than you’re used to on a 3G product.

As with all new technologies, it can be difficult to express what the new capability means or enables. We’ve tried to explain it in easy to understand terms, below.

What does LTE / 4G mean to me ?

To explain what LTE is, it can be helpful to compare LTE / 4G to things you’re used to or used to doing :

  • 4G will be ( is likely to be at least ) 5 – 10 times faster than 3G networks were.
  • It will take you 15 minutes to download a normal definition film over an LTE network
  • A song from iTunes ( typically around 4 MB ) will take you only 10 – 15 seconds !
  • Watching a video on You Tube on a 3G phone, you might have experienced ‘stuttering’ as the network failed to deliver data quickly enough to maintain the picture. You are far less likely to experience that on 4G.

LTE / 4G also means you are likely to need a new phone

If you buy an LTE enabled product now, it will also work on a 3G network when you’re outside 4G coverage. You’ll always get the quickest wireless network connection available.

If you’re on a 4G phone :

  • If you’re in 4G coverage,  your phone will connect to the 4G network.
  • If you’re outside 4G coverage but inside 3G coverage, your phone will connect to the 3G network.

LTE Devices Available in Australia

In Australia, the following LTE devices are available :

  • LTE / 4G Smart Mobile Phones
    A growing range including most mid / high end releases and the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 ( 4G)
  • Wireless Broadband devices
    Dongles – small pieces of hardware which can be inserted in to the USB port of your computer to connect it to the wireless internet.
  • Wireless tablet devices like the iPad.

Telstra’s LTE / 4G Network

Telstra launched 4G in September 2011. As of December 2012, Telstra was reporting 800,000 LTE customers ! Of those, 160,000 were mobile phone users. They currently cover over 100 different areas including ( parts of ) every state or territory capital. To a degree, that means that comparisons between the Optus and Telstra network are not totally fair. There are more people on the Telstra LTE network, and they are all ‘sharing the speed’. So, it’s unlikely to be quite as fast !

Telstra themselves say that they cover 40% of the country already. They have also publicly declared that by mid 2013, that’ll be more than 66%, when they double coverage in the big cities like Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. If you live or travel out of city centres a lot, this will be important information for you !

Remember though, Telstra’s voice and data plans are more expensive than the competition. In the opinion of Whatphone, that’s odd ! The LTE network is actually cheaper for the telcos to run ( after it’s built ) than the older 3G network. It has higher spectral efficiency. Which means it packs more data in to the air.

Optus’ / Virgin Mobile’s LTE / 4G Network

As you may know Optus and Virgin Mobile share the same networks. Both brands are owned by Optus.

Optus operates a smaller LTE network right now although they too are spending huge amounts to roll it out nationwide. In December 2012, Optus covered ( parts of ) Brisbane CBD, Perth, Surfer’s Paradise, Newcastle ( where they trialed the service ) and Melbourne. Optus plan to cover Adelaide mid 2013. here. For thoroughness, we have included a second link for Virgin Mobile. You can find details of Virgin Mobile’s

4G / LTE coverage here. Do you notice any commonalities between those maps ? ( They’re identical – because both brands are owned by the same company and operate the same network ! )

You can find the Telstra coverage map on their website.

If you live in these areas, Optus’ pricing is often substantially cheaper than Telstra’s for 4G services. Why not sign up to the Whatphone pricing alerts so you can keep track of pricing changes on 4G plans.

Vodafone’s LTE / 4G Network

If you’re Australian then you know – Vodafone have had a tough time of it with their network recently. They were caught out by the enormous increase in the number of Smart mobile phone users after the iPhone launch. They struggled to keep up and now, they need to focus on improving their basic network coverage. They don’t have time to be rolling out a new network just yet.

In practical effect, it’s unlikely, in the opinion of Whatphone that they will have much 4G network coverage until the middle of 2013. Just in time for the new iPhone 6. But not in time for the iPhone 5 users who want to use the LTE capabilities of the device.

Vodafone plan to spend $2bn over 2 years rolling out LTE. The first evidence of faster speeds should hit Australia early 2013.

Watch your data when you’re using LTE / 4G !

There is a growing quantity of evidence that people are using a lot more data on their plans, when they have LTE phones. These days, people spend three times as long looking at the face of their mobile phone as they do speaking in to it. That means that the improvement in the quality of browsing and downloading applications which has been enabled by 4G/LTE on the latest set of mobile phones has caused a sustained increase in the amount of data people are using.

Most estimates suggest a doubling of the amount of data used by people with LTE phones, compared to the previous, 3G, generation.

We recommend that you check your usage regularly. There are a variety of ways to do it which you can read about in Whatphone’s data usage articles.

Australian LTE / 4G Capacity Planning

Unfortunately, the size of Australia means it will take a while to cover the whole of the country with LTE wireless network. Upgrading from a 3G to a 4G network means that engineers for companies like Optus, Telstra etc have to go to every base station and perform an upgrade. Base stations are the mobile phone towers you will have seen around and mentioned in the press.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all spending literally billions of dollars changing their data networks to be LTE capable. At every Base Station, they have to insert new LTE enabled network ‘cards.’ They also have to make sure that there is enough ‘backhaul’ – that’s ground based network cable to be able to deal with the levels of data coming down and going up.

We know from experience with 3G that network planning has to be considered carefully – or there will be the sort of network performance problems we’ve seen with Vodafone recently. Vodafone have lots hundreds of thousands of customers as a result of their poor network planning. The other telcos don’t want to make the same mistake.

Factors which affect download speeds :

  • Number of users on the network, downloading. There’s only one network – and it’s shared between the number of users on it at any time !
  • The distance of users from the base station. The base station is where the network aerial is. The further people are away, the worse their signal, and download speeds are likely to be.
  • Things between you and the aerial – buildings, people and other physical items can make it hard for the signal to get through.

What is LTE Technically ?

4G is a network standard. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. LTE is the name given by telcos ( telcos are companies like Optus, Virgin Mobile etc. ) to the fastest wireless internet service they offer at the moment. LTE is a data access capability that falls under the 4G standard.

Incredibly, after all this, officially, the governing body which stipulates what is and what is not 4G says that LTE, right now, doesn’t meet the definition of 4G ! Under the International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced specification, 4G peak speeds are 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication and 1 Gbit/s for stationary or low mobility communications. High mobility simply means you’re on a moving vehicle such as a train, bus, or car. Low mobility means you might be walking along the street or sitting in a café. Since LTE doesn’t offer access speeds of 100 Mbits/s, it shouldn’t really be called 4G.

From a marketing perspective, since 4G is truly, a new generation of wireless network speed, it’s legitimate to call it 4G.

We propose you ignore this technical talk.  It won’t affect the experience you have here. What matters is that LTE is 10-20 times faster than 3G.

LTE in the rest of the world

Australia is one of the first countries in the world to roll out LTE capabilities. Living here, we take it for granted. Australia adopts new technology quickly. In fact, Australia is one of the first that has rolled out 4G/LTE networks.

The UK & USA have also launched some LTE components to their networks. NZ won’t be getting LTE until the end of 2013. But LTE is so cutting edge that the list of countries which have access to it is pretty small right now.

It is worth mentioning, for technical accuracy here that there are some countries which use a different type of 4G which is not LTE. In the US and Korea, there are some 4G network standards – called WiMax – which are not LTE networks but are still considered to fall under the 4G standard.

If you want more technical information, you can find it here.

 

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See all SIM Only plans

If you need another network, for example you’re after an unlimited plan with Telstra coverage, or you live in a city and you’re happy with Vodafone, you might like to check our SIM Only Comparison page and compare all the plans ( including every one mentioned on this page. )

COMPARE ALL SIM ONLY PLANS

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.

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