Telstra will be the first Aussie telco to support LTE Category 9, which is a confusing tetchy name that’s part of Telstra’s 4GX mobile branding. The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be the first devices to support it.
To put it simply, the new technology combines different radio waves that transmit data into the one connection. Think of it as being stuck in traffic, and then having an extra lane added, allowing more cars to join the highway and travel faster. It will let more phones on the network download at higher speeds than ever before.
While on the surface it might seem like you simply have a 3G, 4G or in the future 5G connection to choose from, there are actually many levels of speeds and technology inside each.
With 4G LTE (Long term evolution), there have previously been two categories used in Australia, with the first and most basic being category 4.
This uses the full potential of a chunk of wireless mobile spectrum (the invisible radio waves that transmit data) and theoretically deliver a maximum speed of 150 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 50Mbps upload. In reality, download speeds are about 50Mbps and upload is about 35Mbps.
The next phase of 4G technology was LTE Category 6, which is often branded by Telstra as 4GX. This involves taking one chunk of spectrum and welding it together with another to double the bandwidth and download speeds to a theoretical 300Mbps. Real world speeds are, of course, much less at about 150Mbps.
Now with the LTE Category 9, three different mobile spectrums are welded together, meaning theoretical maximum download speeds of 450Mbps and uploads of about 75Mbps. Expect to see real world speeds of an insane 200Mbps. This means you could download an HD movie in less than seven seconds.
Because it relies on three different types of spectrum, Cat 9 will initially be limited to the very centre of major CBDs to begin with.
Telstra uses different types of spectrum for different areas, with lower spectrums such 700Mhz used in rural areas and the middle of CBDs due to their ability to carry the signal further and penetrate buildings better. The higher the frequency, the more data that can be transmitted to more people, which is why its other spectrums like 1800Mhz and 2600Mhz are used mainly in highly populated areas and not in rural locations.
When an area requires all three of these spectrums to achieve optimal coverage and they overlap, that’s when you can expect to receive the glorious Cat 9 speeds.At this stage, Samsung’s devices are the only phones on the market to support Category 9, but expect that to grow significantly over the next 12 months.
The Optus network has Cat 9 capability in select suburbs in Newcastle already, ahead of the availability of the new Cat 9 devices, and it plans to provide the capability in the Melbourne CBD in early September.
Optus hopes to expand its Cat 9 coverage to Sydney early in 2016 and additional capital cities later next year.Now, if only our home broadband’s speeds were evolving this quickly.