Telstra has announced switching on its 5G network in the Gold Coast, with Australia's largest telecommunications carrier saying it will send live over 500 "5G-capable" mobile sites by the end of the year.
"Today we have switched on 5G-capable sites on the Gold Coast, which enable us to test 5G pre-commercial devices in real-world conditions and use unique innovations like our connected car to test our 5G footprint," Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.
"It also means we can connect compatible commercial 5G devices for customers in 5G areas as they become available ... over the coming months, we will continue expanding our 5G coverage with plans to roll out to more capital cities, regional centres, and other high-demand areas."
Telstra's 5G network in the Gold Coast utilises Ericsson's Baseband 6630, AIR 6488, and 4G/5G system software; Telstra's 3.5GHz and 2100MHz spectrum; and Intel's 5G platform.
The announcement comes one day before Telstra is due to report its FY18 financial results, and a month after the telco announced its new strategy and restructure.
"Our T22 strategy will be underpinned by our aim to have the largest, fastest, safest, smartest, and most reliable next generation network, and these ongoing investments will ensure we continue to deliver market-leading innovation in networks," Penn added.
"With our mobile network now 5G ready in selected areas, we will continue deploying the technology and developing innovative services and use cases for our customers."
Telstra had last month announced making a 5G data call across a commercial mobile network in partnership with Intel and Ericsson using the 5G non-standalone (NSA) network at Telstra's 5G Innovation Centre in the Gold Coast.
The call made use of Telstra's 3.5GHz spectrum holdings and SIM card; Ericsson's commercial 5G NR radio 6488, baseband, and packet core; and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. Using an Ericsson virtualised 5G packet core running on its NFVi, the 5G slice was connected into Telstra's existing mobile network.
"Demonstrating this 5G data call end-to-end using my own personal SIM card on Telstra's mobile network is the closest any provider has come to making a 'true' 5G call in the real-world environment, and marks another 5G first for Telstra," outgoing MD of Networks for Telstra Mike Wright said.
"We continue to work with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel as well as global standards bodies to advance the deployment of commercial 5G capability in Australia."
Intel Next Generation and Standards vice president and general manager Asha Keddy said the tech giant would continue working on 5G use cases and trials ahead of the launch of Telstra's 5G network.
Back in November, Telstra had similar announced completing the world's first 5G data call using 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum on its production core network.
That announcement had come while launching its 5G testing centre to continue trialling new networking technologies in partnership with Ericsson.
In March, Telstra also announced switching on the world's first 5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots in the Gold Coast, with the idea to bring 5G out of the lab to test in the real world while working around the lack of compatible devices.
"We all know that devices for 5G won't become available until next year at best, and we were saying, 'well, how can we do something that effectively works around the limitations of no 5G devices'," Wright told ZDNet earlier this year.
"So we came up with the idea of saying, 'well why not use all the existing devices, they've all got Wi-Fi on them, and what we've done effectively is put multiple Wi-Fi hotspots into a 5G modem. So it's not about the individual hotspots getting 5G speeds; it's about a lot of users connected to those hotpsots generating lots of traffic that's going through one 5G device.
"It's like a super hotspot we've built out of 5G."
Read also: MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan
Telstra's announcements followed CEO Andy Penn telling ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February that the global race to deploy and launch a 5G network is about offering an entire solution more so than simply laying claim to the title of being first.
"Our objective will be to lead the development in 5G, and be the leader in the rollout of Australia, but it's not just about being first -- it's about making sure you have a fully integrated and extensive 5G set of offerings. It's not just about putting a flag in the ground, it's about delivering an extensive 5G capability," Penn told ZDNet.
"We're always a leader, and we have the best network. We've always been a leader in technology and will continue to be so, and as I said it's one thing to just sort of put a flag in the ground, but what's more important is we have an integrated set of 5G solutions for customers, and also we will continue to invest in and develop the capability of 4G as well.
"Because ultimately, whilst 5G might be available commercially in 2019, realistically not everybody is going to suddenly switch to 5G; there will still be many customers on 4G as there are indeed on 3G today."
Penn in January told ZDNet in an interview during CES 2018 that with only five companies involved in 5G networking technology -- Samsung, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei -- the telco is in discussions with all of them in relation to its 5G deployment.
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