MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan for 2019

Telstra's 5G network will be going live in major cities and some regional areas in 2019, with the telco to conduct trials with Ericsson and Intel and deploy more than 1,000 small cells during 2018.

Telstra has used Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona to unveil its 5G rollout plan, with Australia's incumbent telecommunications carrier to provide 5G to major cities and several regional areas by the end of 2019.

According to Telstra's 5G roadmap, 2018 will see the deployment of over 1,000 small cells in metro areas to increase capacity, and 4G and 5G integration trials with Ericsson, Intel, and Qualcomm, including interoperability testing for the newly standardised 5G NSA specs.

During 2018, Telstra will also roll out 2Gbps 4G to "high traffic locations"; take part in the 3GPP meeting in the Gold Coast in September; and undertake trials with vendors and partners at its 5G Innovation Centre in the Gold Coast.

"5G will be a critical building block in economic competitiveness for the nation, so we are planning our network rollout to give as many customers as possible access to 5G technology as soon as possible," Telstra COO Robyn Denholm said.

"We are already working with vendors like Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Intel today to develop the end-to-end 5G ecosystem. At the same time, we are pushing the boundaries of 4G so we can continue to offer Australia's largest and fastest mobile network and prepare for the 4G and 5G technology layers to integrate in future."

Tests at the innovation centre will include working with Ericsson to enable aggregated, combined 4G and 5G services, Denholm said.

"5G will not operate as a standalone technology, at least not for most early use cases. So the quality of the underlying 4G service and how this integrates with 5G will determine the overall mobile experience," she explained.

"This will enable the rapid deployment of new 5G speeds enabled by the underlying strength of the existing network."

Read also: MWC 2018: Intel working on 5G PCs and phones

The Telstra 5G network will make use of sub-6GHz and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum bands, with Denholm saying Telstra's tests across mmWave 5G are achieving speeds of more than 3Gbps and latency of 6 milliseconds between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Telstra is estimating that 5G could be used to deliver wireless broadband to more than 1 million premises, as well as being used across enhanced mobile broadband, Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes, and smart cities applications.

Telstra said its 5G prep has thus far seen it use 2016 to launch the Networks of the Future program and conduct Australia's first 5G field trial with Ericsson; use 2017 to launch gigabit 4G services across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, provide 4G coverage to 99 percent of the population, conduct a global first 5G outdoor data call using mmWave spectrum, upgrade its metro transmission network to optical transport technology, and pass 90 percent of its customers with double the original 4G speeds; and use 2018 to launch its 5G Innovation Centre, test 5G in a moving vehicle, and demonstrate 2Gbps 4G.

During 2019, Telstra said it would begin offering its first 5G services, with the Networks of the Future program concluding on June 30, 2019.

Telstra and Ericsson have been continuing to trial 5G technologies together, including MIMO, adaptive beamforming and beam tracking, and OFDM-based waveforms in the telco's newly launched 5G Innovation Centre in the Gold Coast.

CEO Andy Penn had told ZDNet at CES last month that 2018 would bring wide-scale 5G trials across the globe, along with further standardisation and spectrum allocation, adding that Telstra has only physical implementation and chipset aspects remaining in its preparation work for its extensive 5G trial on the Gold Coast in April.

Telstra earlier this month showed off its first 5G "handset", which Ericsson shipped over from Sweden and is currently the size of a filing cabinet, weighing 200kg. It will be shrunk down into a tiny piece of silicon for smartphones "very, very quickly", according to Telstra Networks MD Mike Wright.

The handset equipment was loaded onto the back of a ute, which drove around the streets providing a live, 360-degree video feed to users in the innovation centre via a virtual reality (VR) headset.

With the innovation centre also stocked with Ericsson workers, head of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand Emilio Romeo told ZDNet the 5G Innovation Centre is part of the memorandum of understanding Ericsson signed with Telstra on 5G.

Telstra similarly launched a 5G testing centre on the Gold Coast back in November, at the time also announcing the completion of the world's first 5G data call using 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum on Telstra's production core network.

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