Vodafone, Optus call for NBN boost to regional mobile coverage

Telcos want cheap backhaul for mobile towers

Vodafone and Optus have called for the National Broadband Network to be used to boost mobile coverage in regional areas.

The telcos have reiterated calls for the NBN's rollout in regional areas to be leveraged to deliver low-cost backhaul for base stations, and for the network's fixed wireless towers be used to increase mobile coverage through infrastructure sharing.

NBN Co has been working on developing a cell site access service Optus noted in its submission (PDF) to the government's Regional Telecommunications Review.

"To make a real difference this service would need to provide a quality of service that is comparable with existing backhaul services but at a lower price point," the submission states.

"It makes sense that, when building the fixed wireless network, the NBN considers whether it can also deliver better mobile coverage," Vodafone's submission (PDF) states.

"The NBN should consider how it can work with mobile providers to also deliver a shared mobile network in those areas where it is uneconomic for any one carrier to build alone, and consider what options could be considered to deliver a single mobile infrastructure in regional areas with both public and private investment. It would be in the best interests of all mobile/wireless operators to collaborate on both passive and active infrastructure in regional Australia.

"Further, mobile networks need fixed line transmission (backhaul) to take the data traffic from the tower to the exchange. The NBN could provide mobile operators access to its transmission network on reasonable terms to facilitate the supply of better mobile services in rural and regional areas."

Vodafone has previously commissioned research that it said proved support in Australia for leveraging NBN infrastructure to boost mobile services and the telco has engaged in cell site trials with NBN Co.

NBN Co's 2014-17 corporate plan noted that the company is "currently conducting a trial where the FTTP [fibre-to-the premises] network is being used to connect the cell-sites of existing mobile network providers".

"This trial is being used to inform a future ‘Cell Site Access Service’ product variant. The trial is seeking to understand what modifications will need to be made to the existing FTTP offering to cater to the needs of mobile networks," the document stated.

Optus and Vodafone also used the Regional Telecommunications Review to call for changes to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) scheme.

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Tags broadbandVodafoneNetworkingnational broadband networkTelecommunicationsoptusNational Broadband Network (NBN)

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