Telstra's Next G range a knockout?

Telstra's Next G range a knockout?

Summary: Just how good will the reception be on Telstra's Next G mobile network?

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commentary Just how good will the reception be on Telstra's Next G mobile network?

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia That's the question many Australians have been asking since the infrastructure was launched with a record level of fanfare in October.

The question is particularly troubling for those living in rural areas, because Next G is slated to replace Telstra's CDMA network, a bush favourite due to its extended coverage range that lets isolated residents stay in touch.

Concerns have also rested on the relatively unpopular 850MHz spectrum Telstra chose for its new network.

This week, Telstra went some way to placating Next G critics by unveiling an upgrade that it claimed had delivered broadband-capable speeds (2.3Mbps) at distances of 200km from the base station. Next G's limit was previously 50km.

Dubbed "Extended Reach" by Ericsson's extremely creative marketing department, the upgrade has already been installed in some of Telstra's rural sites, boosting the maximum range and delivering higher speeds (up to a potential 14.4Mbps, from 3.6Mbps) close up.

Now all this sounds fantastic on paper.

But doubts have already been raised as to whether these great sounding statistics can be replicated in real life.

"When you do the path loss calculations, considering the antenna systems and power levels at each end, the 2.3Mbps at 200km claim is clearly impossible," one reader wrote yesterday, taking Telstra and Ericsson to task for their claims.

"Telstra is the master of spin -- you can be sure that it wasn't a standard hand-held phone working over that distance," wrote another reader. "When installing 899-900 MHz systems years ago, we were lucky to get 70-100km with high-gain aerials on 30 metre towers on the top of line of site hills."

But Robin Simpson, a research director covering the mobile and wireless space for analyst group Gartner, poured cold water over the scepticism. "The whole Telstra thing is actually eminently do-able and there's good technological reasons how they can do it," he told your writer this morning.

The analyst noted mobile base stations could be configured to focus on providing two of the following: greater range, greater bandwidth, or greater capacity (number of concurrent connections).

Telstra, Simpson surmised, had likely tweaked some of its base stations in rural areas for better range, while also taking advantage of new data encoding techniques available through new versions of the high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) protocol.

In metropolitan areas where there were more base stations, he said, it made sense to focus on greater capacity and bandwidth, at the cost of extended range.

Simpson also noted that the 850MHz frequency being used by Telstra provided better range overall than the 2100MHz frequency historically popular for third-generation (3G) mobile networks.

"I think the scepticism is unfounded," he concluded.

When queried on the issue, a Telstra spokesperson pointed out his company wouldn't be announcing the speed upgrade to the Australian Stock Exchange if it couldn't prove its claims. Ericsson didn't respond to a request for comment at press time.

Will you be taking Telstra's 200km extended range claim with a grain of salt? Or do you agree with Gartner that Telstra and Ericsson are on the level? Drop your writer a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post your thoughts below this article.

Topics: Broadband, CXO, IT Priorities, Mobility, Telcos, Telstra, NBN

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Talkback

64 comments
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  • 200km range from a hand held device?

    I certainly wouldn't want to be buying real estate from both Telstra and Ericsson.

    Maybe these conditions can be acheived with the wind blowing in favourable direction, a waxing moon phase and a cow producing methane upwind.
    anonymous
  • Telstra NextG range or lack thereof

    Seems the only way to test this is a Road Trip.
    Which one of you lad wants to go bush?
    anonymous
  • Uh huh

    If Telstras claims are true then there's only one thing faster than NextG, and that's the money that disapears from your wallet while using it.
    anonymous
  • hmm

    has any other carrier tried to do it....CAN any other carrier do it. For all its faults, at least there is now an option (and yes it does cost money!!!!!)
    I notice Optus isnt exactly putting up its hand in developing this sort of thing
    anonymous
  • Cell breathing strikes again

    compare the bottom of Table 2-1 and 2-2 respectively

    http://www.umtschips.com/download_library/pdf/hsdpa_downlink_wp_12-04.pdf
    anonymous
  • Next G vs CDMA

    I head up to site 50km sout of Port Hedland and get exactly the same coverage with my new Next G phone as with my old CDMA. Looking forward to the "extended reach" being installed in Port Hedland but not holding my breath.
    anonymous
  • Precisely

    and Optus have their hand out for taxpayer funding to do it
    anonymous
  • TKO

    Knock em dead Telstra show em your might.
    anonymous
  • Hot or Cold Pizza

    I would rater pay more for a hot pizza now then get a free one after I've eaten.

    Telstra = now and was built with their money so I expect to pay for it, drOptus = 3 years away and will cost $10 from the government for every man, woman and child in the country to build it.
    anonymous
  • Lets get up to date

    Show me a report like this that is not 3 years old and I might read it carefully. This 2004 report may as well have been written by Charles Darwin.
    anonymous
  • Let's not forget..

    Before you all get carried away with how innovative tel$ra is, it took them 70 years of taxpayer money to built the wired network, and a further 6 years to turn it on to only HALF of it's full ADSL2+ potential.

    This is basically a new, needless mobile phone network. The prices are way to high for it to be used for any data transfer.
    anonymous
  • Selective Memory

    Since the implementation of selective deregulation Telstra has taken time to become a world beater and I am sure they will continue this progress. Higher prices is due to competition and shareholder return, I am sure if there were two or three truly comparable networks the price would drop tomorrow but guess what THERE ISN'T.
    anonymous
  • Apprently is true!

    Last month had a convo with a guy install this new tech, didn't make sense at the time but after reading this what he said makes since and seems true that 200k can be reached, not sure of data through put but seems cool. Lucky i just ditched my CDMA
    anonymous
  • Overblown claims

    The problem is that a series of individual whole-system performance limits are being presented in a way that leads consumers to believe that these limits can be acheived concurrently by individual users.
    anonymous
  • Telstra has best network but competition is a necessity

    Telstra does have the best network, but competition is a necessity. Telstra charges the highest prices it can (as a private company should) and the ADSL rollout and speeds are an example of milking customers as much as they can through artificial speeds & pricing.

    Back to 3G - We need to encourage competition rurally and I believe it's in the country's best interest for the government to encourage the build out of Optus's competitive 3G network (Telstra has also had PLENTY of government support in its rural phone builds!!!)
    anonymous
  • Tweaked HSDPA means new handset?

    The extended range is great. And I don't expect a standard NextG phone to have the transmission distances touted (that's standard marketing - but any improvements are welcome.

    So the articles say the recent upgrade will require a different phone to get 14.4Mbps at close range, and that at a long distance the speeds will be slower (regular speeds). What it doesn't say is whether the long distance connections actually use a different transmission method and hence REQUIRE a new phone too for the regular speeds. Any ideas?
    anonymous
  • maximum speed = new handset

    the 14.4 would only be reached by 14.4 capable devices and at present there are none that I have seen. The real benefit is the increased capacity and reduction in cell fading to allow people with 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 or higher being able to access the network in more areas.

    Cell fading happens on all networks and effects the usable range when the network is heavily loaded so 200km will be available normally but in really heavy periods this would decline but would still be well above traditional ranges.
    anonymous
  • Give me back my CDMA

    Regional Telstra user. I got suckered into a NextG phone, and now I'm virtually isolated. I want my CDMA phone back.
    anonymous
  • Competition is a must!

    Spot on. Telstra's overpricing stems more from supporting internal empires and outmoded ways of working rather than the implementation of technology. And because of this a lot of smart people and good ideas within Telstra get beaten and trashed so that the old monopolistic boat doesn't get rocked.

    A visit outside Australia will scare you with just how advanced most other countries are with their telecommunications networks. As someone who has worked in these industries I can tell you that sponging leaches are rife in our uncompetitive telco industries.

    We simply pay too much for what is being offered.
    anonymous
  • Engineered dropouts

    So as more people tune into the 200Km capable base station, those on the periphery will start dropping off.

    This doesn't seem to be that convenient for those out in the bush.
    anonymous