Optus slams Telstra 'empty rhetoric' on 5G

Telstra's second 5G launch announcement has been met with a second criticism from rival carrier Optus.

Optus has again criticised Telstra's progressive 5G network launch, calling the claims "empty rhetoric", this time pointing out its spectrum holdings.

"The absence of large spectrum assets and any commercially available devices means that Telstra's announcement is really more empty rhetoric," Optus VP of Regulatory and Public Affairs Andrew Sheridan said on Wednesday afternoon.

"Spectrum holdings are critical to the delivery of 5G services and Optus is the only carrier with sufficient spectrum holdings to offer a true 5G experience."

Telstra had earlier on Wednesday announced switching on its 5G mobile network in Toowoomba, Queensland, with CEO Andy Penn saying the live network demonstrates Telstra's commitment to providing coverage to rural and regional areas of Australia.

"Telstra provides more network investment and mobile coverage across Australia than anyone else, and regional Australia is an essential part of our 5G plans," Penn said on Wednesday morning.

"5G devices are around the corner, and when they are commercially available, this network upgrade means the people of Toowoomba will be among the first people in the world to enjoy access to 5G services."

The launch followed Telstra earlier this month setting live its first 5G network in the Gold Coast, with Australia's largest telecommunications carrier saying it will send live over 200 "5G-capable" mobile sites by the end of the year -- an announcement that Optus had also hit back at.

"Optus publicly demonstrated its 5G capability in April at its 5G Live showcase during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which combined state-of-the-art 5G use cases and 8K video streaming on the go on Optus' live 5G trial indoor and outdoor network, in addition to achieving speeds of 16Gbps," Optus Networks MD Dennis Wong said two weeks ago.

"Furthermore, the lack of commercially available 5G devices means that no network provider can claim leadership at this time."

During Telstra's financial results call earlier this month, Penn told ZDNet that while 5G handsets will not be ready until next year, having the 5G network live means Telstra will be able to fully test the devices as they do become available.

"What we're really doing is we're starting to roll out 5G to make sure that our network is 5G-ready ... ultimately, we need the handset manufacturers, the big companies around the world, to be making compatible 5G devices -- but our network is essentially ready, so we can start trialling and testing those as they come through," Penn told ZDNet.

"So we're basically rolling out a number of sites, and we'll expect to have 200, and that is across the nation, by the end of the calendar year, and absolutely we are working with Ericsson, they've obviously been a long-term partner with us. I won't comment on whether we're working with other parties as well, as we're obviously in a pretty critically and strategically sensitive time for 5G competitively, but I'm really pleased with some of the things that we're doing in 5G.

"This is going to be an exciting opportunity for Telstra, and an exciting opportunity for telcos, and this is about getting the technology right, being in a leadership position, and that's exactly what we're doing."

Telstra had last month announced making a 5G data call across a commercial mobile network in partnership with Intel and Ericsson using the 5G non-standalone (NSA) network at Telstra's 5G Innovation Centre in the Gold Coast.

The call made use of Telstra's 3.5GHz spectrum holdings and SIM card; Ericsson's commercial 5G NR radio 6488, baseband, and packet core; and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. Using an Ericsson virtualised 5G packet core running on its NFVi, the 5G slice was connected into Telstra's existing mobile network.

"Demonstrating this 5G data call end-to-end using my own personal SIM card on Telstra's mobile network is the closest any provider has come to making a 'true' 5G call in the real-world environment, and marks another 5G first for Telstra," outgoing MD of Networks for Telstra Mike Wright said.

"We continue to work with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel as well as global standards bodies to advance the deployment of commercial 5G capability in Australia."

Intel Next Generation and Standards vice president and general manager Asha Keddy said the tech giant would continue working on 5G use cases and trials ahead of the launch of Telstra's 5G network.

Back in November, Telstra had similarly announced completing the world's first 5G data call using 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum on its production core network. That announcement had come while launching its 5G testing centre to continue trialling new networking technologies in partnership with Ericsson.

In March, Telstra also announced switching on the world's first 5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots in the Gold Coast, with the idea to bring 5G out of the lab to test in the real world while working around the lack of compatible devices.

Telstra's announcements followed Penn telling ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February that the global race to deploy and launch a 5G network is about offering an entire solution more so than simply laying claim to the title of being first.

Optus had showcased its 5G capabilities during the Commonwealth Games, with CEO Allen Lew at the time outlining the company's 5G roadmap in an interview with ZDNet.

Optus' road to 5G saw it begin switching on its 4.5G network in February last year, followed by the addition of Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) and three-cell carrier aggregation to 4G at the end of last year.

Optus had in February announced that it will begin rolling out its 5G network across Australia in early 2019 in an aim to launch a fixed-wireless product in "key metro areas", following its first 5G trial with Huawei back in November 2016.

The trial was conducted as part of Optus' parent company Singtel's memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Huawei; however, Optus had also signed an MOU with Nokia back in 2016 to collaborate on developing a 5G network, under which it undertook closed lab tests using Nokia's 5G radio test bed on its Airscale product, as well as narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) tests.

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