Telstra to add low band spectrum to commercial 5G network

After performing 5G testing of the low band spectrum since November last year.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Telstra has finalised testing for its low band 5G spectrum and will now begin rolling it out as part of its commercial 5G network.

The low band spectrum, in the 850MHz range, is currently used for the telco's 3G network. With 3G traffic progressively declining as consumers move to newer technologies, Telstra has been working towards repurposing part of that spectrum for its 5G network.

"The tests and rollout, which started last November, have added another dimension to our 5G offering with parts of the network now able to do a 5G data session over distances exceeding 80km," Telstra said.

According to Channa Seneviratne, a Telstra technology development and solutions executive, the addition of low band spectrum to the telco's 5G network will allow it to offer broader 5G coverage to "hard to reach places".

"We are continuing to test and optimise 5G, work that will unlock further advanced 5G capabilities such as the aggregation of more carrier frequencies, lower latency like the ~ 5mSec we demonstrated previously and the progression of the 5G StandAlone Network which we first enabled in May 2020," Seneviratne said.

He added that Telstra is currently testing the use of 700MHz spectrum for low band 5G purposes.

The Australia government's 5G policy outline, released last year, stated that lower band spectrum, such as those in the 850MHZ and 900MHz bands, are important for broader 4G and 5G coverage in areas such as regional Australia.

"A reconfiguration will support the deployment of 4G and 5G networks and support more efficient use of the spectrum," the policy said  

As of March, Telstra has 3,000 5G sites on-air across Australia and remains on track to roll out its 5G network to more than 75% of the population by the end of June, it said.

Telstra hit the 50% mark in January and had set up 2,650 5G sites around the country at that point.

Last week, Macquarie Telecom announced it would be moving on from using Telstra's network for its telecommunications business, opting to use Optus' 5G mobile network instead. The multi-year deal, valued at AU$34 million, will see Macquarie Telecom offer 5G plans, Wi-Fi calling, and VoLTE plans using Optus' network to its customers.

According to Macquarie Telecom group executive Luke Clifton, the telecommunications provider opted for Optus' network as it has been "enabling partnership in Australia's 5G development while others are 'actively inhibiting' it".

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