Telstra has its first enterprise 5G customer

Telstra has announced providing commercial 5G connectivity to FKG Group via the HTC 5G Hub, with the company testing the service across IoT applications in Toowoomba.

Telstra has announced using its 5G mobile network to connect its first 5G customer using the new HTC 5G Hub that was unveiled last week, with FKG Group using the early launch network in Toowoomba.

FKG Group, a construction and civil engineering company which opened a Tier III datacentre in the region earlier this year, will test the 5G hub's features and connectivity.

Executive chair of FKG Group Gary Gardner said his company would use the 5G network and device at its Aatlis Innovation Precinct for testing Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities across agriculture and the "food value chain", including logistics and transport use cases.

According to Telstra CEO Andy Penn, the contract will enable the telco to test and analyse its 5G network in real-world conditions.

"We expect a range of devices to become commercially available in the first half of 2019, and as soon as they are launched at scale, we will begin to offer them to customers," Penn said.

"We are now at a critical point in time where we can start bringing together our 5G-ready network and 5G commercial devices with our customers. We're pleased to be working closely with FKG Industries in these early stages to see what the device can do for our enterprise customers."

Penn added that Telstra will be adding more customers as the trial progresses, with 22 5G sites now live in Toowoomba.

In September, Telstra network engineering executive Channa Seneviratne said the 5G launch in Toowoomba had been originally based on a partnership with FKG Group, and on enabling agricultural technology applications.

"Within 100km of Toowoomba, you've got every single different type of agriculture ... Toowoomba is becoming a centre where there's advanced agri-tech being developed," Seneviratne said.

"They're creating an advanced industrial precinct for high-tech agri-tech, so for us to provide them with 5G coverage is a really important thing to enable this next wave of industrial development."

Telstra had last week unveiled a prototype 5G smartphone that is the size of a regular smartphone, which it is testing on its live 5G commercial production network, as well as the HTC 5G smart hub powered by Qualcomm technology.

The 5G smart hub will be launching sometime in the next calendar year, with Seneviratne calling it a world first to have a commercial device running on a sub-6GHz 5G network.

Telstra has been working on the smart hub alongside Qualcomm and HTC, Seneviratne said. He added that the telco is also working with a number of handset manufacturers on other 5G smartphone prototypes.

Seneviratne told ZDNet that these handset manufacturers include HTC, ZTE, and Inseego.

"We want to work with all of them, but in terms of what we can say we can only talk about the handset manufacturers you see up here today," he told ZDNet.

"But rest assured we'll be working with all of them."

Seneviratne said Telstra now has 130 5G towers on air out of its planned 200 5G sites for 2018, with the latest ones being in Hobart and Launceston. All of these upgraded sites have been enabled with gigabit LTE for consumers to use with their current devices in the meantime.

On Monday, Telstra announced winning 143 lots of 5G spectrum in the 3.6GHz auction hosted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), paying over AU$386 million for the holdings across metro and regional areas.

Telstra acquired 12 lots in Sydney; 12 in Melbourne; seven in Adelaide; six in Brisbane; six in Canberra; six in Perth lower band; 10 in North Queensland; 10 in Central Queensland; 10 in Regional Northern NSW/Southern Queensland; 13 in Regional Southern/Western NSW; 10 in Regional Victoria; 10 in Tasmania; 15 in Regional South Australia; and 16 in Regional Western Australia.

Penn pointed to his telco's early 5G launches across the nation, saying Telstra will continue leading in 5G.

"This is an extremely significant moment for Telstra and as we set out last week at our Investor Day, 5G will bring enormous opportunities for growth. This is also a significant investment in the nation's future connectivity, including large holding of regional spectrum, demonstrating our continued commitment to bring the latest technology to Australians in regional areas," he said on Monday.

"Telstra is leading the way in working with suppliers and international standard bodies to develop the 5G ecosystem. This will enable us to provide the data, connectivity, low latency, and speed necessary to enable new products and services ... we are very pleased with the outcome of the auction."

Speaking with ZDNet in October, CEO Andy Penn said that Telstra is choosing a range of different launch sites for its early 5G network so as to ensure the new mobile network will be able to handle all geographical and population density requirements ahead of 5G smartphone availability next year.

As well as Toowoomba, Telstra in October announced launching the network across Canberra, Adelaide, and Perth after launching 13 sites in the Gold Coast and one in Brisbane.

While Penn wouldn't be drawn on where Telstra will be launching next, he did confirm that the telco's 5G network will be live "nationally" by the end of 2018, with the telco using mid-band spectrum in the 3.5GHz band.

Telstra last month also achieved the first live 5G connection in Australia which used a commercial 5G chipset and a smartphone that were made in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

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