Telstra tests prioritised 4G 'lanes' for G20

In addition to rolling out a private network in Queensland for emergency services during G20, Telstra will also test out prioritised traffic on its commercial 4G network.

Telstra will allocate specific "lanes" to emergency services on the telco's 4G network in Queensland as part of a trial to be conducted during the G20 Leaders Summit.

Last year, Telstra won the contract for the AU$457 million Queensland government wireless network for use by emergency services during the G20 Leaders Summit on November 15 and 16, and the Commonwealth Games in 2018. This is a dedicated network for emergency services organisations, but, speaking at the Communications Day Congress in Melbourne on Wednesday, Telstra's group managing director of networks Mike Wright said Telstra would also test out providing dedicated spectrum and quality of service to emergency services on its commercial 4G network.

"We ran some trials last year in Brisbane and Perth, and we demonstrated segregated spectrum, and the whole idea of segregated spectrum is you can have some certainty, but we also have the capabilities that if emergency services need more than that, we can actually overflow them into public spectrum and give them priority," he said.

"We've built a demonstration area in Brisbane around G20, and our intention is to kick the tyres with some of the emergency services towards the end of this year to try and understand the capability.

"They'll rely on their government radio network for the base of operations, but they'll be able to come and test. We've got dual capability. We've got dedicated spectrum, and we've got priority access areas as well. So we can experiment, we can go in and out of both and just see what happens, and what the functionality is. And hopefully build a foundation for something that is very, very interesting in the future."

Telstra has long argued against dedicated networks for emergency services, arguing over the past few years that the company's own mobile network could be used for emergency situations using dedicated "lanes" to separate emergency traffic from the general public.

Wright said that Telstra is constantly focusing on what advances it can make to its networks, and cited the recent trial of 4G antennas on planes delivering average speeds of 10Mbps on the aircraft. While he said that the obvious use would be for in-flight internet access, there is also the possibility that the 4G could be used for spying.

"How else could we use it? There's a lot of talk about drones, and remote control, autonomous aircraft, we could use it for surveillance. It's an interesting concept, and to know it is possible is the beginning of the discussion," he said.

To boost the speed and capacity on the 4G networks, Telstra is turning more to carrier aggregation that combines multiple spectrum channels, but while those tests are still in the early stages, Wright said that Telstra is rolling out a software upgrade to its existing 4G network to boost speed and capacity for all customers.

"The architecture, the antenna configurations, the remote radio units we've installed for the majority of our 4G network are configured, ready to take advantage of 2x4 [multiple input, multiple output]," he said.

Telstra recently conducted some tests, and has seen a 30 percent improvement in speeds and capacity, Wright said.

"Fundamentally, with a software upgrade to an existing network, depending if you're in a metro or rural [area], we can go an add around 30 percent capacity in the existing spectrum band on existing infrastructure," he said.

"That's the best investment we can make, and probably one of the cheapest investments we're making in terms of improving performance. The good news about that is it benefits all existing 1800MHz customers as we activate it."

While Telstra has been testing out other 4G technologies, including LTE-Broadcast, Wright said it is important to start thinking about the next iteration of mobile technology — 5G.

"I think it is a state of mind, more than a reality. But it is important we start that journey and start to think about what 5G will become," he said.

"But for now, the strongest tool we have for maintaining network performance is basically around bandwidth."

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