news The nation’s largest telco Telstra has returned fire from all cannons in its developing war with Optus for 4G mobile coverage and customers, announcing this morning that it now has some 500,000 4G customers and would be expanding its 4G network to two thirds of Australia’s population by mid-2013.
In a statement published on the company’s Exchange blog, Telstra executive director of Networks & Access Technologies, Mike Wright, said the company currently offered 4G coverage in more than 100 metropolitan and regional locations across Australia, including all capital CBDs. The telco said in May that it had some 1,000 base stations equipped for 4G services nationally.
On his blog, Wright wrote that the expansion announced this morning would “more than double” that 4G coverage, with more than 1,000 new 4G base stations to be installed by mid-2013. “When all new sites are live, our 4G service will reach approximately 66% of the Australian population and it won’t stop there, with the growing take up of 4G devices we expect to see a rapid transition to 4G driven growth, this in turn will drive further network upgrades using 4G technology resulting an even wider 4G footprint,” he wrote.
The first locations to be affected by the upgrade will be Sydney’s iconic beach as well as the popular North Shore train line, where Telstra has today switched on new 4G base stations.
“Once the network expansion is complete Telstra 4G will cover even more of Australia’s highest population centres. For instance, coverage will stretch out in a 10-15 kilometre radius from the Sydney GPO and a 15-20 kilometre radius from the Melbourne GPO,” said Telstra chief operations officer Brendon Riley in a separate statement. Telstra’s rollout would, Riley said, position Australia as one of the most advanced nations globally in terms of 4G networks.
The telco is planning to expand its 4G coverage as follows, in major cities:
Brisbane: Plan to more than double the coverage to stretch from Brisbane Airport in the East to Indooroopilly in the West and from Coopers Plains in the South to Chermside in the North.
Gold Coast: New planned coverage stretching from Surfers Paradise in the East to Nerang in the West and from Tugun in the South to Hope Island in the North.
Sydney: Plan to more than double the coverage to stretches from Manly in the East to Greystanes in the West and from Kogarah in the South to Hornsby in the North.
Canberra: Planned coverage from Queanbeyan in the East to Duffy in the West and from Farrer in the South to Moncrieff in the North.
Melbourne: Plan to more than double the coverage to stretch from Ringwood in the East to Werribee in the West and from Bentleigh in the South to Epping in the North.
Adelaide: Plan to more than double the coverage to stretch from Magill in the East to Henley Beach in the West and from Torrens Park in the South to Broadview in the North.
Perth: Plan to more than double the coverage, to stretch from Maida Vale in the East to Fremantle in the West and from Willetton in the South to Dianella in the North.
Telstra also today revealed that it now had more than 500,000 4G customers in total, with some 340,000 using mobile broadband devices and a further more than 160,000 using 4G smartphones to connect to the telco’s network.
In a press briefing this morning, Riley said Telstra believed that 4G would become the “dominant” mobile network technology over the next two years, with anyone buying a mobile phone or mobile broadband device looking to buy a 4G device. The telco is planning to launch five more 4G handsets before the end of 2012, but it would not say which devices it planned to launch locally, or whether Apple’s next iPhone device — expected to launch shortly — would support 4G speeds in Australia. One of those devices is likely to be a 4G version of Samsung’s Galaxy S III handset.
The news comes just weeks after Optus threw down the gauntlet to Telstra by revealing it had already upgraded some 500 mobile phone towers across Australia to support high-speed 4G mobile broadband services, in a rapid-fire rollout aimed at curtailing Telstra’s lead in the provision of the next-general mobile services.
Optus also noted it had started selling commercial 4G services on its new network to business customers in Sydney and Perth, following successful trials of the network in Newcastle over the past few months involving around a thousand customers. The company has also rolled out its 4G network in Melbourne but hasn’t yet started allowing customers to use it, as it is still finalising a spectrum re-farming exercise in that city. The news marks a faster than expected 4G rollout for Optus.
Telstra’s announcement this morning will again thrust the telco far ahead of Optus in the ongoing race for 4G mobile coverage. It also means that Telstra is racing ahead in terms of 4G customer numbers compared with Optus, with the SingTel subsidiary only having just started signing up new customers on its 4G network. Vodafone has not yet started deploying any 4G infrastructure in Australia, and its existing 3G network is believed to be inferior to that of both Telstra and Optus.
One area which Optus might be ahead is in terms of raw speeds, with most tests having shown Telstra’s 4G network capable of speeds up to around 35Mbps, while Optus’ 4G network is capable of peak speeds up to 60Mbps, although testing accounts currently vary as to how consistent the experience is.
Opinion/analysis to follow separately. Image credit: Telstra