Telstra turns on Cat M1 for 4GX network

Telco estimates it will have five times the traffic on its network in five years.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Australia's incumbent telco has switched on Cat M1 on its 4GX footprint in an effort to boost IoT uptake on its network.

Telstra COO Robyn Denholm said Cat M1 would allow IoT devices to have years of battery life, as well as support greater range from the tower and into buildings.

"With the unique features and coverage of Cat M1 enabled devices, we see this as an investment in the IoT ecosystem in Australia that will support new startups across a range of sectors, including agriculture, transportation, healthcare, and mining," Denholm said.

"Cat M1 operates over our expansive 4GX coverage and we will shortly deploy range extension capability which will take the Cat M1 coverage footprint for compatible Cat M1 devices to around 3 million square kilometres."

"With the boom in smart devices, video streaming, and cloud computing, we are forecasting that over the next five years we will have five times the traffic on our network, four times the devices, and a growing range of ever more complex applications."

Mike Wright, Telstra Group managing director of Networks, told journalists on Tuesday that should the ACCC maintain its draft decision not to declare domestic roaming, the telco would expand its 4G network out to the same size as its 3G network, allowing Cat M1 to be expanded in the process.

Telstra and Ericsson announced in February the telco would be deploying a Cat M1 network nationwide.

"Building Cat-M1 services for IoT using the scale and standardisation of the 3GPP roadmap allows the rapid rollout of Cat-M1 through a new network software activation and provides the ideal platform for a proliferation of IoT devices and applications," Wright said at the time.

"Cat-M1 meets the demands of LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) IoT applications. Advantages include low cost, low power consumption, deep coverage, massive numbers of connections, and high reliability of transmission. Cat-M1 can enhance LTE coverage for underground and in-building areas that challenge existing coverage."

Earlier this week, Telstra announced the availability of Google Home, allowing its Smart Home users to control lighting and conduct other activities through voice commands.

Customers will require a Telstra Smart Home kit and Google Home equipment, which can be purchased from the telco for a cost of AU$3,065, accompanied by a two-year contract. Alternatively, Google Home can be purchased outright for AU$199.

Telstra launched its first swathe of Smart Home products and pricing packages in November, with devices including cameras, lightbulbs, motion sensors, smart power plugs, a smart door lock, and a thermostat.

On Tuesday, Telstra also announced the completion of the first phase of an upgrade to its transmission network, which would see a 30 percent increase in speed to Tasmania.

"The upgrade will more than double Telstra's capacity on two subsea cables across Bass Strait to 1 terabit per second each, or the equivalent of 200,000 HD videos being streamed simultaneously," Denholm said.

"Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are next in line to benefit from the upgrade as we light up inter-capital capability with optical transport technology in the coming weeks."

The company's 4G coverage now serves 1.4 million square kilometres, or 99 percent of the population, dwarfing the 3G networks offered by Optus and Vodafone. Coverage on Telstra's 3G network sits at 2.4 million square kilometres, with the company saying it will further extend its 4G network if the ACCC maintains its decision not to declare domestic roaming in Australia.

Both Telstra and Optus joined the ACCC in defending the process to which the regulator arrived at its decision, one that Vodafone has vehemently disagreed with.

In January, Telstra launched its gigabit-capable 4G mobile network in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and said it would upgrade 80 percent of its 4G footprint to 300Mbps by 2019 via techniques such as 256 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO), and carrier aggregation across spectrum bands.

"We have this continued expansion of our 4G footprint, and also we will enable these advanced features so all our customers will enjoy faster speeds over time ... features like 256 QAM and 4x4 MIMO are features we've already deployed in a lot of areas: 80 percent of our sites have the ability to take advantage of that," Telstra director of Wireless Engineering Channa Seneviratne said at the time.

"It makes economic sense to do what we're doing -- spectrum is expensive, so techniques like 256QAM or 4x4 MIMO, they allow us to make maximum benefit and get much more efficiency out of those very expensive assets ... we've been driving the cost of a bit downwards."

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