Optus boosts coverage across Australia with small cells

Optus has continued its small cell rollout across Australia, with 11 new locations in South Australia and the Northern Territory getting improved mobile coverage.

Optus is continuing to expand its mobile network across remote areas of Australia using small cells, on Tuesday announcing more coverage points in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The small cells utilise Optus' satellite services rather than the telecommunications carrier having to build out additional mobile towers.

Five locations in the Northern Territory will experience faster 4G speeds -- Kulgera, Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse, Ross River Homestead, Simpsons Gap Visitor Centre, and Glen Helen Homestead -- while six locations in South Australia will be boosted: Cadney Park, Marla, Dalhousie Springs, Mount Dare hotel, Wilpena Pound, and Maralinga.

"We are investing significantly to strengthen and broaden our mobile network coverage in regional areas, and this rollout is a natural progression following the small cell infrastructure that was successfully delivered in the Northern Territory earlier this year," said Optus Networks acting managing director Dennis Wong.

"We've seen that this technology delivers a choice in mobile services for workers and residents in and around key locations, as well as providing for visitors, making it a vital improvement to our network in remote regions."

Optus earlier this month also extended mobile coverage along the Highway 1 route in Western Australia with nine small cells, located at the Billabong Roadhouse, Overlander Roadhouse, Wooramel Roadhouse, Minilya Roadhouse, Nanutarra Roadhouse, Fortescue River Roadhouse, Pardoo Roadhouse, Sandfire Roadhouse, and 80 Mile Beach.

It also extended mobile coverage across 12 Northern Territory regions -- Mataranka, Daly Waters, Ormiston Pound Ranger Station, Elliott, Renner Springs, Three Ways, Barkly Homestead, Wycliffe Well, Barrow Creek, Ti Tree, Erldunda, and Curtin Springs -- using the same technology in August, following its successful trial of small cells in Oodnadatta, South Australia.

Optus' small cell technology provides mobile phone coverage to up to 3km surrounding the cell, and is used in regional and remote areas where it is not economically viable to build out mobile infrastructure.

"As the only Australian telco to own and operate mobile, fixed, and satellite networks, this is a terrific initiative for Optus to leverage our expertise and introduce an innovative mobile and satellite technology solution to support our continued network expansion across Australia," Paul Sheridan, Optus Satellite VP, said in August.

"The use of small cells allow for the efficient provision of telecommunications services in difficult and often costly locations. While quite common in highly populous CBDs, we believe this is an excellent way to deploy this type of technology to deliver services to areas that are remote and geographically challenging."

Optus' satellite division owns the largest number of satellites covering Australia and New Zealand, with six satellites in orbit providing coverage to the region.

In December, the Australian government also announced that Optus will be building 114 new mobile sites -- 49 small cells and 65 base stations -- in remote areas, and investing AU$36.4 million as part of round two of the mobile blackspot program.

"Real investment in regional and remote telecommunications services is the only sustainable way to improve competition, and strength and breadth of coverage in regional Australia," Optus vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said at the end of last year.

Under round two, Telstra will build 148 3G and 4G mobile base stations -- significantly fewer than the 429 mobile towers and small cells in 135 locations Telstra is responsible for under the first round of the blackspot program.

Telstra had activated 60 of its 135 blackspot small cells as of August, providing approximately 20,000 kilometres of new or improved coverage throughout New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia.

Vodafone will build out just four mobile base stations under round two, after building out 70 under round one. It will also invest AU$9 million of its own funding to be spent on constructing 32 new mobile base stations across the country.

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