Telstra boosts 4G capacity in regional areas

Telstra is utilising its 1800MHz spectrum holdings to boost 4G network capacity by up to 50 percent across Queensland and South Australia.

Telstra has announced boosting its 4G capacity by up to 50 percent across 200 sites in North Queensland and South Australia, utilising the spectrum it bought during the 1800MHz auction earlier this year.

The areas seeing the speed boost include Cairns, Townsville, Ayr, Innisfail, Port Douglas, Mossman, Ingham, and Charters Towers in North Queensland; and Ceduna, Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Victor Harbour, Goolwa, Renmark, Mount Gambier, and Robe in South Australia.

"We are proud to be able to deliver this additional speed to our customers. This is possible because of our significant investment which helped us secure additional 1800MHz spectrum in regional areas across Australia," said Telstra group managing director of Networks Mike Wright.

"We will keep investing to make sure our customers, particularly in regional and rural areas, have the best mobile experience on Australia's biggest mobile network.

"As we obtain full access to the spectrum we purchased at auction, this will include delivering 4G speed boosts to customers in other areas including Canberra, Darwin, Dubbo, Albury, Tasmania, and many more."

Telstra spent AU$191 million during the 1800MHz spectrum auction held by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The high-band spectrum, which was auctioned off online beginning in November, will improve 4G coverage in regional and remote Australia, bringing high-speed broadband to those living outside of the major cities.

The 1800MHz band is currently used in metropolitan areas by Telstra, Vodafone Australia, and Optus to deliver their 4G networks, but has been primarily used in regional Australia for point-to-point backhaul services. The reallocation of the spectrum will ensure that it is used to bring faster connection speeds to those living in regional areas.

Telstra won five lots of 1800MHz spectrum in Darwin for AU$5.58 million; six lots in North Queensland, paying AU$18.24 million; five lots in Central Queensland for AU$10.09 million; four lots in South Queensland for AU$36.63 million; five lots in Northern New South Wales for AU$14.82 million; five lots in Western New South Wales for AU$7.96 million; two lots in the Australian Capital Territory for AU$17.22 million; five lots in Southern New South Wales/Riverina for AU$15.13 million; four lots in Regional Victoria for AU$28.15 million; four lots in Tasmania for AU$22.67 million; six lots in Regional South Australia for AU$7.44 million; and five lots in Regional Western Australia for AU$6.01 million.

"This latest investment at least doubles and in some places triples the amount of spectrum in the 1800MHz band that we may use to provide 4G services in some areas," Wright said on Friday.

"The 1800MHz was the foundational band for 4G in Australia and it will benefit all 4G customers, even those with earlier 4G devices."

Wright added that Telstra is deploying the extra spectrum "ahead of schedule", and can be combined with its 700MHz spectrum to form part of its 4GX service.

Telstra's 4G network now reaches 98 percent of the Australian population, with plans to reach 99 percent by mid-2017.

Vodafone Australia has also been eyeing regional Australia; in May, it announced that it would spend AU$9 million on constructing 32 new mobile base stations across the country to improve telecommunications coverage in rural areas on top of the 70 base stations Vodafone is building as part of round one of the Australian government's mobile blackspot program.

Vodafone's push into regional telecommunications has seen it expand its 4G network nationwide by purchasing AU$68 million worth of 1800MHz spectrum and refarming its 850MHz spectrum band to bring coverage to regional and metropolitan Queensland, NSW, and the ACT; propose to the to the Australian government that it be permitted to pay AU$594.3 million for 2x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band that was unsold in the 2013 auction; partner with the Regional Australia Institute and Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on releasing a report on regional telecommunications based on a case study of Northern Inland, NSW, in April; push M2M as an answer for farmers in February; and partner with the National Farmers' Federation to develop an online platform for farmers as part of an effort to "digitally transform" the agriculture industry in December.

Vodafone's 4G network covers 95.3 percent of the Australian population, or 23 million people, a 40 percent rise in network size over the past four years.