SingTel subsidiary Optus has laid out progress on its own network upgrade efforts in a statement this week following announcements from rivals Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) detailing massive network expansion plans.
Troubled telco VHA this week revealed it would install new 3G equipment at 8000 mobile base stations across Australia following months of customer complaints about mobile service. The move came as Telstra also announced a significant upgrade of core parts of its network to the long-term evolution (LTE) standard.
Analysts agreed VHA's move to establish a single-vendor platform with Huawei may position the telco to compete with Telstra in the LTE field. But rebuilding the base stations across all of Australia may also affect Optus, which last year took advantage of some of VHA's coverage issues.
VHA and Optus have been sharing 3G network sites and radio infrastructure across Australia since late 2004, when the two telcos signed a joint venture agreement to share the costs of the network and deliver it faster. Since then, they have shared more than 2000 base stations nationally. As VHA now moves to rebuild its network from scratch, an Optus representative said the decision would not affect previous agreements.
"Optus maintains its metro network sharing arrangement with Vodafone and there are currently no plans to change the network sharing arrangement with Vodafone," the company said in a statement, adding that it had strong vendor arrangements to provide its technology roadmap and service to nearly 9 million customers.
The telco said its Open Network reached 97 per cent of the Australian population and that Optus has invested more than $2 billion to increase both the breadth and depth of the network over the last five years. "In the first half of the 2010/2011 financial year (March to September 2010) Optus invested over $300 million to increase both the breadth and depth of its mobile network and increase capacity," the statement said.
The 2010 investment caters for 600 new sites in metro and regional Australia as well as facilitating the construction of transmission equipment and fibre backhaul to the majority of Optus' metropolitan sites. In addition, regional links have been beefed up to support growth in the bush, and Optus has also focused on increasing the overall capacity of its network through packet core technologies and the use of additional spectrum.
Optus has also invested in portable mobile base stations to assist with disaster recovery and special events such as music festivals. The telco was also putting funds into "extensive in-building coverage" to service major shopping centres, sports arenas and transport hubs across major CBDs nationally.