Optus invests AU$42m in Tasmanian mobile network

Optus has improved its mobile coverage across Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, and the east coast of Tasmania, building 37 new mobile sites as it eyes eight more before March 2019.

Optus has announced installing 37 new mobile cell sites across Tasmania under a AU$42.2 million expansion of its mobile network to provide more capacity, quality, and faster data speeds.

The sites were deployed over the last 12 months in Hobart CBD North, North Hobart, Berriedale/Chigwell, Collinsvale East, Green Point/Bridgewater, Sorrell Central, and Tinderbox, Hobart; Devonport North, Forth, Latrobe Central, Railton, and Sassafras, Devonport; Mole Creek, Oatlands, Legana, Deviot, Swan Bay, Beaconsfield North, Hadspen, Summerhill North, Rocherlea, and Kayena, Launceston; and Coles Bay, Eaglehawk Neck, and Orford, on the east coast of Tasmania.

The additions bring Optus' total mobile towers in the state to 151, as Optus CEO Allen Lew called Tasmania a "priority state" for the telco.

Lew said Optus would additionally spend another AU$4.5 million to build eight more sites by March 2019 in Cradoc, Magra, Salamanca Place, Austins Ferry, Campania, Romaine West, Jericho East, and Doctors Rocks.

"In July last year, we committed to building 35 new sites by July 2019. I'm proud to say that we've delivered on that target of 35 sites as well as an extra two locations in just 12 months," Lew said on Tuesday.

"The introduction of new sites is testament to our commitment to building the best possible mobile network across the state. We firmly believe that competition is not only good for the economy, but also good for the customer, with these new sites providing customers with choice and better value."

The Spirit of Tasmania ship has also been fitted out with access to Optus' 3G and 4G networks while customers are travelling between Melbourne and Devonport.

Optus has also been working with the Victorian government to add more mobile coverage across that state, last month announcing that it will build another 11 towers under the Victorian Mobile Black Spot Project.

Victoria had committed AU$11 million under the 2018-19 state Budget to the second round of its mobile blackspot program, from which it expected 45 new base stations, after abandoning the federal mobile blackspots scheme at the start of the year.

Optus had last year announced a that it would invest AU$1.5 billion in improving its mobile telecommunications coverage throughout Australia.

"The AU$1.5 billion primarily will go towards our mobile network, and will go towards building a significant number of new greenfields sites primarily in the regional areas," Lew told ZDNet at the time.

"There will also be within that AU$1.5 billion a densification of our metro networks in the capital cities."

As of June 30, Optus' 4G mobile network provided coverage to 96.9 percent of the population, with 6,895 of its mobile sites upgraded to 4G and 5,800 of these upgraded to 700MHz spectrum.

For the most recent quarter, Optus reported consumer operating revenue up 5.4 percent to AU$1.8 billion thanks to mobile revenue increasing by 7.9 percent to AU$1.3 billion.

Optus' mobile customers numbered 10.2 million at the end of the period -- 5.3 million in post-paid, 3.7 million in prepaid, and 1.1 million in mobile broadband -- after adding 407,000 during the past year.

Prepaid average revenue per user (ARPU) fell from AU$20 to AU$19 per month over the year, while post-paid ARPU dropped from AU$44 to AU$42 and mobile broadband rose from AU$21 to AU$22.

The telco is also planning to launch a 5G fixed-wireless network at the beginning of 2019.

"The [5G] preparations are certainly ongoing, we haven't chosen a partner yet, but we have been looking at different options and different infrastructure providers," Lew told ZDNet in May.

"We are also in the process now of looking at propagation characteristics for the 3.6GHz frequency, which is a higher frequency range than we've used before, and to make sure that we understand the impact of buildings, trees, geography, etc, on that.

"So we are progressing along well in our plans in order that we can launch the 5G fixed-wireless access service in January next year for Australians."

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