Optus to launch 5G across Canberra and Brisbane in January

Singtel's first-half FY19 financial results report said Optus would launch 5G first in Canberra and Brisbane at the start of next year, with Australia's remaining capital cities to follow by March 2019.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus has announced that it will be launching 5G fixed-wireless services in Canberra and Brisbane in January 2019, with other Australian capital cities to follow by March.

The launch follows Optus trialling 5G in Sydney, the telco's parent company Singtel revealed in its first-half results report.

"After successfully concluding live 5G trials in Sydney, we are on track to commercially launch fixed-wireless access services in January 2019," Optus CEO Allen Lew said on Thursday.

"Customer experience remains our top priority, and we are focused on removing customer pain-points across the entire business."

During the six months to October 31, Optus gained 87,000 post-paid customers during the quarter, as well as 18,000 mobile broadband customers, but this was offset by a loss of 120,000 prepaid handset customers due to "seasonality and intense competition".

Post-paid average revenue per user (ARPU) was down to AU$41 per month, while prepaid ARPU fell to AU$19.

Optus' 4G population coverage reached 97.2 percent as of October 31, with 7,011 of its mobile sites upgraded to 4G and 5,990 of these upgraded to 700MHz spectrum.

The telco also gained 33,000 NBN customers during the quarter for a total of 516,000, and had 515,000 TV customers by the end of the period.

Overall for the first half of the financial year, Optus reported total operating revenue of AU$3.6 billion, up from AU$3.4 billion, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of AU$1.2 billion.

Mobile revenue was up from AU$2.4 billion to AU$2.7 billion; mass market fixed revenue was down 4 percent to AU$675 million; and wholesale fixed revenue was down 2.4 percent to AU$279 million.

National Broadband Network (NBN) migration revenues fell by 51 percent, down to AU$47 million for the half year, with Singtel pointing to NBN's temporary suspension of migrating customers to the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network.

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.

Huawei has since been banned by the federal government from involvement in the rollout of 5G networks across Australia.

Optus had in August criticised Telstra's announcement of being the first Australian telco to launch 5G network, calling the claims "empty rhetoric" and pointing out its lack of spectrum.

"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.

"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."

Singtel on Thursday announced first-half net profit of SG$1.5 billion on revenue of SG$8.4 billion, with EBITDA of SG$2.3 billion.

The APAC telco company cited "intense competition in India and Indonesia" for its slightly lower results, as well as lower NBN migration revenues.

Related Coverage

Editorial standards