Mobile carrier 3 has made a push to expand its third-generation (3G) mobile coverage, announcing plans to extend its 2100MHz network, and taking the lid off an agreement to use parts of Telstra's 850MHz Next G network for roaming.
Up until now, 3 customers have only been serviced with 3G on the carrier's own network, which reaches 56 per cent of the population. For forays out of this coverage, 3 customers roamed onto Telstra's 2G network, covering 96 per cent of the population.
The carrier said that it intended to build new coverage for high roaming use areas and that it would also provide 3G roaming on Telstra's Next G network for use outside 3 coverage.
Fifty new sites have been earmarked to receive new coverage by the end of the year, with areas such as NSW's Newcastle and the Central Coast as well as Victoria's Mornington Peninsula to benefit. 3G roaming on Telstra's network has been scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year.
With those measures in place, 3 would be able to service 96 per cent of the population with 3G, the company said.
However, those with 3 handsets which only work for the 3 network's frequency, 2100 MHz, could find the new 3G coverage academic, as Telstra's network runs at 850 MHz. In order to take advantage of both 3G networks, customers would require a phone which worked on both frequencies.
"Some handsets in 3's range today are capable of operating on both 2100MHz and 850MHz frequency, although only the 2100MHZ capability is currently enabled," said a 3 spokesperson. "This means that today customers are supported on 3's 2100 network and roaming on Telstra's 2G network."
As the 3G roaming agreement doesn't come into effect until next year, there was time to get consumers onto the right handsets, the spokesperson continued. "As we approach 3G roaming on Telstra's 850MHz network we'll be reviewing options for customers including enabling 850MHz roaming on those handsets that can support it and adding new handsets to the range that do."
"With 850MHz now maturing as a 3G network, more handsets are becoming available and we'd expect the roadmap to be similar in the types of feature rich devices as the 2100 roadmap within 12 to 18 months," the spokesperson concluded.
Apart from possible increased coverage, the company also announced that roaming prices were about to fall.
"In addition to providing more access to our 3G services, these initiatives will reduce our roaming costs. Both new sites being added and lower wholesale roaming costs will have a significant impact," Nigel Dews, Hutchinson Telecoms CEO, which operates the '3' brand, said in a statement.
Hutchinson said that roaming prices would drop as of next month, although there was no information as to the new pricing.