Telstra spending 'a lot of time on 5G': Penn

Telstra's 5G NR trials with Ericsson and Qualcomm are going well, Telstra CEO Andy Penn has said, with Telstra to host a 3GPP standards meeting in a year after a live trial of its 5G network in April.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra CEO Andy Penn has told ZDNet that the telecommunications provider is spending a lot of time on developing and testing 5G network solutions, adding that its 5G trials with Ericsson are progressing well.

"We spend a lot of time obviously on 5G; we've got a whole program of work," Penn told ZDNet during the annual Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.

"We were the first to roll out serious 5G trials, and then we've got an in-market live trial on the Gold Coast next year."

2018 will be a big year for Telstra on 5G, with Penn telling ZDNet that the telco will be hosting 5G standards body 3GPP's meeting next September in a further demonstration of the telco's commitment to contributing to and progressing 5G standards.

Penn also confirmed that Telstra's live trial of 5G will be run during the Commonwealth Games next year.

"That [3GPP] meeting's going to be a really important meeting, because we're getting close to aligning people around what the 5G standards are going to be," he explained.

"We're doing live trials, we're doing a real experience on 5G in April next year on the Gold Coast, which is at the same time as the Commonwealth Games are occurring."

Telstra had announced in February that it would be conducting 5G new radio (NR) trials across Australia during the second half of 2017 ahead of an accelerated deployment in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

The trials will see the three companies conduct interoperability testing and an over-the-air field trial using 3GPP's current 5G NR specifications, making use of millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum as well as Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology along with beam forming and beam tracking.

A year ago, Ericsson and Telstra had achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia, with the trials conducted in a real-world outdoor environment using Ericsson's 5G radio testbed, Massive MIMO, and beam forming.

Penn also used his Vantage keynote to emphasise Telstra's other network advancements, including in extending 4GX to 90 percent of the population and last month's launch of its Cat-M1 network over the top of this -- with Telstra on Wednesday afternoon revealing that this IoT network now extends further than its 4G coverage.

Michelle Bendschneider, executive director of Global Products for Telstra Enterprise, said this focus on IoT means in essence lots of devices connected to lots of apps, many of which are on public cloud infrastructure, running on public cloud apps, and connected to several public networks. While that unlocks business potential, she said it also led to Telstra resetting and rethinking how it provides security solutions.

Calling Telstra a "technology optimist", Penn said it has dealt with such concerns via its newly launched security operations centres in Melbourne and Sydney, and its new managed virtual security service, which he said brings together an artificial intelligence (AI) engine with the physical capacity to monitor customers' networks and protect them from a cybersecurity standpoint.

Such network advancements are what Penn said constitute Telstra's response to TPG's entry as the fourth mobile provider in Australia next year.

"I tremendously respect TPG as a competitor and the team there. They are very capable and an organisation to be respected and not to be underestimated," Penn told media.

"We're absolutely committed to continuing to have the best mobile network in the country, as well as all of our other networks, and we're leading with that through our investments on 4G, 4GX, [and] the IoT network."

Director of Networks Mike Wright added that Telstra's moves towards building an all-IP network have also seen the telco upgrade its core.

"The first thing we've done is really jacked the network up, slid out the stumps, and we're sliding in a new foundation which is called our optical network," Wright said on Wednesday afternoon.

"So the very heart of our network is the bandwidth, capacity, and flexibility of the interconnect at every node in every state."

An all-IP network will enable voice over LTE (VoLTE), video over LTE (ViLTE), voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), and rich communication services (RCS), Wright said, while Telstra also focuses on its LANES, LTE-Broadcast, Telstra Programmable Network, always-connected datacentres (ACDC), and IoT networking solutions.

These abilities are underpinned by core network tech evolution involving an evolved optical network, an Ethernet evolution, 4G enhancements, media-optimised networks, software-defined networking and network function virtualisation, and services orchestration, he said, with Telstra working with its industry partners on these.

In terms of its overseas networks, Penn said Telstra is "philosophically" just as involved in investing in its international networks as it is domestically.

"Our submarine cable network effectively represents about one third of all capacity in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

"We obviously continue to invest just as much internationally as we are now domestically -- not financially, but proportionately."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra

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