Telstra and Ericsson get 200km range on LTE signal with software upgrade

But the telco hosed down any thoughts of the upgrade being a 'magic pill' that can instantly double its coverage.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Telstra CEO Andy Penn with a mmWave hotspot

Image: Telstra

Australian incumbent telco Telstra and carrier equipment giant Ericsson have teamed up to extend the signal range from an LTE tower to 200 kilometres.

A call was connected to a tower at Mount Dowe, on the edge of New England and the North West Slopes regions of New South Wales, that travelled double the current 3GPP standard limit of 100km. The call was able to be made after Ericsson created a software update.

In 2007, Telstra said it was able to deliver download speeds of 2.3Mbps over 200kms on its 3G network.

When making the announcement, the telco sought to hose down the idea that the patch could be applied to its network and instantly double its coverage.

"This is not a magic pill to double out coverage -- I wish it was. This is a very important option for us when we're looking at specific coverage scenarios and options to deploy this technology," Telstra 5G network principal Paul Milford said speaking to journalists on Thursday. The telco expects the extended range to be useful for Internet of Things deployments.

Telstra also on Thursday said it would launch a 5G hotspot that would make use of 26GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum by the middle of the year. Coverage at 26GHz would be limited early on, and restricted to select areas, with Telstra gaining early access to the spectrum through a scientific licence issued by ACMA.

The auction for the 26GHz band is pencilled in for early 2021.

"mmWave will supercharge 5G. Its higher capacity and the potential to deliver even faster speeds as wellas lower latency will help power the next generation of devices and innovations," Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.

"More than 4 million people now pass through our 5G footprint and can access its benefits on any given day."

Telstra said last month it had 100,000 5G devices on its network.

On Wednesday, the ACCC opened consultation on whether any competition issues would likely to appear with the upcoming allocation of licences in the 26GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands.

The 26GHz band, from 25.1GHz to 27.5GHz, is set to be allocated by ACMA in 29 areas across the country, while the 28GHz band, from 27.5GHz to 30GHz, will be restricted to apparatus licences. The former band will be allocated via an auction and administrative process, while the latter band will only be allocated by an administrative process.

Telstra bins copper-based 100Mbps NBN plans

This week, telecommunications industry publication CommsDay reported Telstra had taken the decision to stop selling 100Mbps plans on the National Broadband Network (NBN) that made use of fibre-to-the-node (FttN), fibre-to-the-basement (FttB), or fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) technologies. This means the telco will only offer 100Mbps speeds on fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) connections.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Penn said there was "nothing Machiavellian" about the decision, and that it was based on customer experience.

"The experience for the customer is, we signed the customer up, they think they're going to get 100 megabits per second," he said.

"We then have to test it once we've connected them, then find that in the majority cases of that we can't, and then have to get back to the customer, and give them the opportunity to downgrade plans and that's just causing too much pain."

Penn added that the majority of copper-based lines were not capable of providing 100Mbps, and NBN was not capable of providing line speed information prior to a customer being signed up.

ZDNet has asked Telstra what would happen to those already on 100Mbps plans, what percentage of its FttB and FttC customers were unable to hit 100Mbps, and why it took the decision to include FttB and FttC in its ban.

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