Telstra reaches for regional Australia with 700MHz spectrum

Telstra 4G expected to cover more than 90 per cent of population next year

Telstra has hit speeds of 235 Mbps in a test of 4G mobile broadband using 700MHz spectrum in Perth.

For the test in the Perth CBD, Telstra activated 12 cells supporting 700MHz and combined it with 20MHz of existing 1800MHz spectrum in the area using carrier aggregation, said Mike Wright, Telstra group managing director of networks.

Devices in the test were the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Telstra’s new Category 6 4G Wi-Fi hotspot from Huawei, the Advanced Pro X.

Without any network tuning, Telstra saw speeds between 220 Mbps and 235 Mbps on a Cat 6 device, Wright told media on a conference call today. The speeds were measured in a test environment and will likely be lower after all of Telstra’s 4G customers hop onto the network.

Telstra used the 2x20MHz of 700MHz spectrum that it won in the Digital Dividend auction. Telstra is currently building out infrastructure in preparation for the spectrum when it is turned on at the start of 2015, said Wright.

The low-frequency 700MHz spectrum was previously used by broadcasters and is able to cover longer distances and provide better indoor coverage than higher frequency 1800MHz spectrum used for 4G networks in Australia today.

Telstra sees great potential in using 700 MHz to extend 4G in regional areas since it has greater range than the 1800MHz spectrum, Wright said. Existing 4G coverage is focussed around urban areas.

Telstra’s 4G network now has 8,000 mobile sites covering 87 per cent of the Australian population, said Wright. He predicted that 4G coverage will exceed 90 per cent of the population in 2015.

Telstra has not “done the analytics” on whether it will seek additional 700MHz spectrum if the government auctions the spectrum that was not sold in the Digital Dividend auction last year. The government had failed to sell one-third (2x15MHz) of the 700MHz spectrum it had made available.

“We are not aware at this stage and have no formal advice of what the next steps about that additional spectrum [will be],” said Wright.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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