Telstra eyes 5G ‘smart cities’ play

Prepares to roll out 5G support to a second regional location to test smart city applications

Telstra’s network engineering chief says that the company is preparing to test the potential of 5G to enable smart cities, as the telco continues its program of rolling out support for the new standard across its existing mobile base stations.

Telstra in August said it had begun switching on 5G support at its mobile sites, beginning with the Gold Coast. The telco says 15 of its sites currently support 5G and it is aiming to make a total of 200 ready to deliver services using the new standard by the end of the year.

5G handsets and other end user equipment are yet to hit the market, but the sites are using “commercially available hardware from our vendor partner Ericsson,” and the telco’s licensed spectrum in the 3.4Ghz band, said Telstra’s executive director, network and infrastructure engineering, Channa Seneviratne.

Of the 15 5G-ready sites, 13 are on the Gold Coast, he told the Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne. The Queensland city is home to Telstra’s 5G Innovation Centre and has hosted a range of early 5G demonstrations.

Another one of the sites is in Brisbane – the first capital city location to get 5G coverage --  and the other is in the regional town of Toowoomba.

“There is a cunning plan and a logic behind what we’re doing,” Seneviratne said.

“Within hundred kilometres of Toowoomba you’ve got every single different type of agriculture that occurs in Australia,” he said. The town is becoming a home to advanced agritech development and earlier this year the ribbon was cut on FKG Group’s $40 million Pulse Data Centre, which is located nearby. Telstra has a partnership with FKG, and Seneviratne said that the new facility was helping boost agritech R&D in the region.

“So for us to provide them with 5G coverage is a really important thing to enable this next wave of industrial development,” he said.

Seneviratne wouldn’t reveal the next regional area to get 5G coverage from Telstra, but said the rollout there would be based around smart city applications.

“All of the sites we’re choosing -- we’ve got a certain plan behind why we’re doing it,” he said. “We’re working with different sectors and different verticals.”

Telstra’s CEO Andy Penn told the conference he expects a relatively swift adoption of 5G in Australia.

“It took eight years for 2.5 billion people in the world to move from 2G to 3G,” the CEO said. “It took five years for 2.5 billion years to move from 3G to 4G. And my expectation is that the rate will continue to accelerate as we move forward into the world of 5G.”

The author traveled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra.

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Tags TelstraNetworkingTelecommunicationsMobility & Wirelesssmart cities5GSmart City

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