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Optus boosts 4G in Canberra with 1800MHz spectrum

Optus is boosting its 4G network in more than 30 sites across the ACT using the 1800MHz spectrum.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus has announced an expansion of its 4G network in Canberra, using the 1800MHz spectrum it secured during the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) auction earlier this year.

Services will be augmented across 10 sites in the Australian Capital Territory this month and 30 sites by the end of January 2017, with Optus mobile customers in Richardson, Torrens, Latham, and along Majura Road the first to be given enhanced coverage and capacity.

Optus said the 1800MHz spectrum band is being delivered early in Canberra thanks to the telecommunications provider gaining approval from the ACMA for early access commercial licences ahead of the spectrum's May 2017 national availability date.

"Optus is committed to enhancing the mobile experience for customers living in and visiting Canberra, and between now and January 2017 we will boost services at more than 30 sites across the ACT," said acting MD of Networks at Optus Dennis Wong.

"The advantage of 1800MHz spectrum is that virtually all 4G devices support it, meaning more Optus customers with a variety of devices will enjoy the improved experience."

Optus spent AU$196 million -- the most out of all Australian telcos -- during the 1800MHz spectrum auction in February, securing four lots in the Australian Capital Territory (including the south coast of NSW) for AU$29.89 million; five lots in the Darwin area for AU$4.69 million; five lots in the North Queensland (Cairns/Townsville) area for AU$18.95 million; five lots in Central Queensland (Mackay) for AU$9.76 million; four lots in South Queensland (Maryborough) for AU$35.89 million; and five lots in Northern New South Wales (Grafton) for AU$14.23 million.

It also won five lots in Western NSW (Dubbo), paying AU$7.97 million; four lots in Southern NSW/Riverina (Albury), paying AU$11.29 million; four lots in Regional Victoria, paying AU$29.54 million; four lots in Tasmania, paying AU$16.77 million; five lots in Regional South Australia, paying AU$8.09 million; and four lots in Regional Western Australia, paying AU$5.64 million.

Optus said it intends to continue boosting more 4G areas using its 1800MHz spectrum across regional Australia and holiday destinations from May onwards.

The Optus 4G network now covers 95 percent of the Australian population. By comparison, Telstra's 4G network reaches 98 percent, while Vodafone Australia's reaches 95.3 percent.

Earlier in October, Vodafone Australia also announced concluding a "major network upgrade" on its 4G service in Canberra using its 1800MHz spectrum.

Using the spectrum, Vodafone upgraded 84 network sites to 1800MHz 4G to increase capacity fourfold, and said it plans to upgrade another 19 sites over the next year.

"A great deal of work has been put into improving network performance in Canberra," Vodafone CTO Kevin Millroy said at the time.

"Through our investments, we have been able to drive a wide range of upgrades to deliver greater reliability, speed, and performance. If you look at where people live and work, Vodafone is on par with major rivals."

Australia's incumbent telco Telstra in July also announced using its own 1800MHz spectrum to boost its 4G network by up to 50 percent across 200 sites in North Queensland and South Australia.

Also aimed at increasing 4G networks, the government last week announced its decision to auction off 2x 15MHz of the 700MHz spectrum band that went unsold during the 2013 digital dividend auction, following Vodafone Australia's proposal to buy the spectrum outright.

The 700MHz spectrum, auctioned off by the ACMA in 2013, is used for additional 4G mobile broadband capacity, particularly over long distances.

Vodafone had in May proposed to the Australian government that it be permitted to acquire 2x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band for either AU$571,814,450 upfront, prior to the licence's commencement; or in three instalments of AU$274.5 million on January 31, 2018, AU$159.9 million on January 31, 2019, and AU$159.9 million on January 31, 2020, for a total of AU$594.3 million.

Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, and TPG have all expressed interest in bidding for the 700MHz spectrum.

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