Optus, Australia’s second largest mobile phone company, today announced it would be upgrading its network from April 2012 in selected locations to 4G mobile technology and is the first mobile company to be granted a trial licence for operating on the 700Mhz spectrum band.

Optus will begin to upgrade its existing network from April 2012 which will deliver 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile and mobile broadband services to areas including Newcastle, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie areas.

Melbourne, Sydney and Perth will also benefit from upgrades by mid-2012, with phase one of the rollout starting in the coming months. Optus indicated that extensive coverage was planned coinciding with a wider 4G LTE handset range to give customers “the best value and choice”.

Optus also announced that it has been granted the first 700Mhz spectrum trial licence, which was previously used to deliver analog free-to-air television services across the country. These trials will begin in Bendigo, Victoria where as of the 5th of May 2011 analog TV signals are no longer being transmitted and the switch to digital TV signals have occurred.

4G LTE services allow for faster download and upload speeds for mobile broadband and associated applications, suggesting that this new technology could be a solid replacement for fixed line broadband services or compete directly with the NBN (National Broadband Network).

The Optus announcement today comes a few weeks after Telstra, and months after Vodafone both announced their plans to begin enhancing their networks with 4G LTE technology bringing what looks like continued competition to mobile services for years to come.