Telstra 3G performance dropping, claims mag


Those of you with long memories will remember that analyst house IDC caused a bit of a stir back in June last year when it claimed that Optus’ 3G mobile broadband offering was only 4 percent behind Telstra’s Next G offering across a range of criteria — despite acknowledging that Telstra’s network was on average 60 seconds faster.

Well, now we’ve got some further evidence that despite the constant #badoptus claims, Australia’s number two telco might be catching up — although not, perhaps, through anything Optus has done.

In this month’s issue of PC & Tech Authority (the article isn’t yet available online, that we can see), the lads from the labs tested all of the major mobile broadband services available in Australia, taking the kit on the road from Sydney’s CBD to the suburbs, to regional NSW and even the Gold Coast. Most of the networks performed as expected, but we found these comments about Telstra and Optus particularly interesting:

“Telstra once again took out our speed crown with the highest recorded speed in our tests (9.08Mbps in the Sydney CBD) and the best overall average, but the real story of Telstra’s speed figures was in their extreme variability and how the distance gap between Telstra and its competitors has widened considerably … [and then, in the Optus review] Optus hasn’t become magically faster; it’s more that Telstra’s real-world speeds have dropped.”

PC & Tech Authority surmises — and it’s hard to disagree — that this impact on Telstra’s Next G network is likely to be from the sheer amount of customers joining Telstra at the moment, generally as they desert the great sinking ship Vodafone and take advantage of new and simpler Telstra pricing plans.

Telstra added just 39,000 post-paid customers in the three months to the end of June last year. But the next quarter — as its efforts took effect — it added some 116,000, and then a further 181,000 in the Christmas period.

These sorts of problems would do much to explain why senior Telstra executives have gone to great lengths to explain recently why the company’s shift to LTE is as much about building greater capacity on the company’s network as it is delivering higher speeds. Right now, Telstra is adding so many customers to Next G that it is having trouble keeping up.

Of course … while PC & Tech Authority’s analysis might mean Next G isn’t as bulletproof as many of us have been assuming, this doesn’t mean we should have much confidence in its rivals. If the narrowing gap between Telstra and Optus is entirely due to Telstra’s own problems, that implies Optus hasn’t been boosting speeds on its own network over the past year. And Vodafone is going to be coming a distant third for some time while it re-builds its entire network.

Image credit: Telstra


  1. My experience with all three carriers here in deepest darkets Parramatta is Next G telstra has better capacity and speed compared to Optus and Vodafone. Vodafone is unusable at 5pm, and Optus is struggling badly, but Next-g is still kicking goals.

    I even tether my Optus Galaxy Tab to my Telstra HTC desire as I get better throughput on the tab.

  2. > Those of you with long memories will remember that analyst house IDC caused a bit of a stir back in June last year

    It takes a “long [memory]” to remember “June last year”?

  3. I can unhappily confirm that Next G performance is significantly worse than it was a year ago. It’s blazing fast at night but unpredictable and sometimes downright slow during the day. The only explanation for that is greatly increased traffic. I hope they are aware of it and busy upgrading as they will have a ton of new customers signing up over the next 12 months.

    • I switched from Telstra to Vodafone – (bear with me here) – for a number of reasons, one of which was pricing at the time. Though Telstra’s pricing has improved more in line with some of the Optus and Vodafone plans, I don’t feel the urge to switch back.

      In the areas I frequent, I’ve never noticed *significant* coverage issues, despite what all the #vodafail people will tell you. Sure, it’s not as comprehensive as Telstra coverage, but not as bad as some people made/make out.

      On the contrary, I’ve noticed a steady improvement from “not too bad” to “pretty reasonable” in most situations, but certainly in peak times – (such as around 5pm as mentioned by Darryl) – it can be patchy in some locations.

      The growing size of their 850Mhz network seems to correlate with the improvement in the last couple of months, and that’s only going to get better still.

      Are Telstra resting on their laurels? I doubt it, but they have no doubt been the beneficiary of churn away from Optus and Vodafone in recent months, and that has to have a capacity impact.

      • I suggest that it depends on what area you mainly use 3g in.

        I find that Optus and Voda have issues penetrating the Faraday cage I call work, and Telstra has best penetration.

        However, I suspect other areas will experience differences. Take Black Spots. Between my transit between home and work via bus, all carriers have black spots, just different locations.

      • I use a Vodafone 3G dongle in the Brisbane CBD and its performance has been consistently good for some time now. A year or two ago it was slow to the point of unusable and the service was unreliable at best, but they’ve obviously made a lot of improvements and I’m quite happy with it now. The whole #vodafail thing didn’t affect me at all, but I think that was mostly a Sydney thing?

        Mind you things change rapidly once you venture outside the CBD. I used to be with Vodafone for my mobile but had to switch because coverage is patchy in the area where I live and I had no reception at all inside my house. This is the real reason Telstra costs more – not so much because their network is faster but because it was a far broader reach than either of its rivals. Unfortunately I can’t see Optus or Vodafone catching up any time soon.

  4. Down in Hobart, Telstra obliterate the competition as far as actual coverage goes. Not only do they have twice the towers, but the 850Mhz spectrum seems to be much better for penetrating buildings and making its way over Tasmania’s very hilly topography.

    As far as speed goes, Telstra used to obliterate the competition as well. However it seems that gap is narrowing.

    Of course when they transition properly to LTE , I’m guessing Telstra will once again be the leader of coverage and speed.

  5. Umm… the quote from PC@ states “distance gap between Telstra and its competitors has *widened* considerably”, and then later on you write… “If the *narrowing* gap between Telstra and Optus is entirely due to Telstra’s own problems,…”

    Is this one of those widening narrowing gaps? :)

  6. Telstra 3G may be slowing but this understandable given the mass exodus of customers from both Vodafone and Optus. Even so Telstra 3G is still light years ahead of Vodafone and Optus.

    • Spot on.

      Telstra has really turned around in the last year or so, providing much better value on all fronts.

      This has no doubt sapped their revenues somewhat. Their ability to deliver a superior service long term will be strongly impacted by the timing and certainty of income from their asset sale to the NBN.

      The rollout path for the NBN should have a major impact on their bottom line as well, given their ability to gouge on wholesale backhaul is location dependent.

      Be interesting to see a detailed look at both these and how they’ll affect Telstra’s future. Any chance of making that happening Renai?

      • Hmm sure, but just to clarify — what precisely are you interested in an analysis on? Just Telstra’s future in general? Or with specific reference to the development of its mobile network?

  7. And where in gods name are all those anti-NBN people who claim wireless will suffice instead of a Fibre network?

  8. I’ve found NextG unusable at both Brisbane and Melbourne airports the several times I’ve flown in the past couple of months. I ended up turning off 3G to get a (slightly) better EDGE service.

      • I’m in Sydney tomorrow and Thursday, and comparing performance between the two is one thing I’ll be looking at. I’ve never had a problem at either airport though with Telstra, but I’ll see how Vodafone holds up over the next couple of days.

  9. i dont think Optus is losing too many customers at all according to this,

    “Mr Paul O’Sullivan, Optus Chief Executive, said: “In a highly competitive environment, Optus
    delivered continuing EBITDA growth, improved cash flow and strengthened its market
    position with our mobile customer base exceeding 9 million customers for the first time.”
    In Mobile, service revenue grew 7 per cent year-on-year while EBITDA increased by 8 per
    cent. Postpaid net additions this quarter were 151,000. Total postpaid customers increased
    582,000 to 4.77 million as at 31 March 2011 from a year ago.
    The number of 3G customers5 increased to 5.09 million, a 5 per cent increase from a quarter
    ago. This included a base of 1.28 million wireless broadband6customers.”

  10. I wonder how much of that $11 Billion that Telstra has secured will be available for LTE upgrades.

    With that sort of coin, they could guarantee their wireless dominance well into the future.

  11. Used to get 5000+kbps download speeds all day, everyday in my suburb, now I’m getting 120kbps at night and 1250kbps in the day. Too congested, and way to slow.

    I noticed the network slowing down after Jan of this year, and the network dramatically going down the drain in late March. Even logging on to 3TELSTRA’s network now gives me faster speeds, around 2300kbps in the day and 700+kbps at night.

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