One hundred New Zealanders will be some of the first to try Telecom's 4G/ LTE services in New Zealand, as phase two of the telco's next generation network trial begins this month.
At a media event last night, Telecom announced the public trial which is split across Auckland and Wellington, with around half of the 100 trialists in each city. These trialists have already been picked, and include Telecom staff, customers, and business partners.
(Pictured: Left - Chris Quin, Telecom Retail CEO Right -Arthur Zhang, Huawei NZ CEO)
The company has hinted at 4G trials as early as May last year, and last night revealed it's been conducting internal trials since December 2012.
Telecom has not said when full 4G services will launch in New Zealand.
A TVNZ staff member was present last night, showing off high quality video streaming over the 4G network, on the company's yet to be released OnDemand iOS app.
There's no minimum speed to use the label "4G", in fact many existing 3G services like dual carrier HSPA+, are marketed overseas as 4G.
Telecom's 4G speed is much higher than anything I've experienced before using a 3G connection on Telecom, Vodafone, or 2degrees. Speed tests using a 4G modem, posted results between 50 Mbps down / 30 Mbps up, and 100 Mbps down / 50 Mbps up. This is comparable to what you can expect on the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network, and worlds apart from the 1.2 Mbps down / .7 Mbps up I get in West Auckland.
However, these results should be taken with a massive grain of salt. Currently there are very few devices and customers accessing the trial 4G cellsites, it will be a much more accurate reflection of true capability when there are hundreds or even thousands of connections taxing each cell site, as there would be when the service rolls out.
Arthur Zhang, the head of Telecom's 4G partner Huawei NZ, says he wants to eventually bring 1 Gbps technology to the country.
Telecom is utilising its existing 1800 and 2600 MHz frequencies for the 4G trial, instead of using the much contested 700 MHz spectrum. The 700 Mhz range carries signals around corners very well, making it ideal for use in urban environments.
The 700 MHz frequency won't be available for use by telcos until after the analog TV switch off later this year, after which it will be auctioned off by the government. Iwi has expressed intentions to contest the spectrum in much the same way it contests water and land rights, which could result in lengthy legal proceedings.
Telecom Retail CEO, Chris Quin, says the company is moving ahead with its 4G trials because of this uncertainty, but he expects Telecom will use the 700 Mhz spectrum in the future.
"It's a bit difficult to pick where the spectrum auctions will be at that time. If we didn't start something now, we risk being left behind," he says.
Quin says the lessons learned from the trial should be applicable to any 700 Mhz flavour of 4G Telecom might roll out.