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Telstra outlines 21Mbps Next G plans

Telstra today said it would start upgrading its Next G mobile network to 21Mbps speeds by the end of the year, with Canada-based supplier Sierra Wireless working on the first customer access device.

Telstra today said it would start upgrading its Next G mobile network to 21Mbps speeds by the end of the year, with Canada-based supplier Sierra Wireless working on the first customer access device.

Michael Rocca

Michael Rocca
(Credit: Telstra)

The timeframe appeared to represent something of a back-down for the telco, which had previously stated the network as a whole would support the speeds by the end of 2008.

Speaking at a briefing in Sydney, Michael Rocca, group managing director for Telstra networks and services, said the telco was the first in the world to reach the speeds.

Rocco said that would make Telstra's network the fastest in Australia, and possibly even the world. "That's why we run the business on value, not on price," he said.

Telstra could not confirm what average speeds customers could expect, with the 21Mbps speeds only being the theoretical maximum. Michael Wright, Telstra's executive director of wireless said the figures were not yet available.

"When we start testing we will come up with some hard figures, but when you look at a 7.2Mbps device, a typical user is seeing 550Kbps to 3Mbps, with bursts of 6Mbps," he said.

Wright said those figures were some indication of the average network speed once the upgrade was complete. "We intend to multiply network speed by three. It won't be a three times improvement, because the main benefit is for users closer to the cell, but it will certainly be a big step up."

Rocca said that Telstra was able to increase the network capacity through a combination of improved backhaul capacity (the IP networks that support wireless), and an investment in the 850MHz spectrum. Telstra's partners in the upgrade included Sierra Wireless, Qualcomm and Ericsson.

Hugh Bradlow, Telstra's chief technology officer, said one of the company's key technologies in Telstra's increased backhaul capacity was the migration to blades in the company's datacentres. He also spoke about the carrier's plans for Long Term Evolution (LTE), which would bring wireless broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Bradlow said that one of the keys to allowing LTE to progress was the release of two parts of the RF spectrum, 2,600MHz and 700MHz, both of which are currently occupied by analog devices. In particular, 700MHz is utilised by analog television, which the Federal Government is planning to switch off between 2010 and 2013.