The question is particularly troubling for those living in
rural areas, because Next G is slated to replace Telstra's CDMA
network, a bush favourite due to its extended coverage range that
lets isolated residents stay in touch.
Concerns have also rested on the relatively unpopular 850MHz
spectrum Telstra chose for its new network.
This week, Telstra went some way to placating Next G critics
by unveiling an upgrade that it claimed had delivered
broadband-capable speeds (2.3Mbps) at distances of 200km from the
base station. Next G's limit was previously 50km.
Dubbed "Extended Reach" by Ericsson's extremely creative
marketing department, the upgrade has already been installed in
some of Telstra's rural sites, boosting the maximum range and
delivering higher speeds (up to a potential 14.4Mbps, from
3.6Mbps) close up.
Now all this sounds fantastic on paper.
But doubts have already been raised as to whether these great
sounding statistics can be replicated in real life.
"When you do the path loss calculations, considering the
antenna systems and power levels at each end, the 2.3Mbps at
200km claim is clearly impossible," one reader wrote yesterday,
taking Telstra and Ericsson to task for their claims.
"Telstra is the master of spin -- you can be sure that it
wasn't a standard hand-held phone working over that distance,"
wrote another reader. "When installing 899-900 MHz systems years
ago, we were lucky to get 70-100km with high-gain aerials on 30
metre towers on the top of line of site hills."
But Robin Simpson, a research director covering the mobile and
wireless space for analyst group Gartner, poured cold water over
the scepticism. "The whole Telstra thing is actually eminently
do-able and there's good technological reasons how they can do
it," he told your writer this morning.
The analyst noted mobile base stations could be configured to
focus on providing two of the following: greater range, greater
bandwidth, or greater capacity (number of concurrent
Telstra, Simpson surmised, had likely tweaked some of its base
stations in rural areas for better range, while also taking
advantage of new data encoding techniques available through new
versions of the high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA)
In metropolitan areas where there were more base stations, he
said, it made sense to focus on greater capacity and bandwidth,
at the cost of extended range.
Simpson also noted that the 850MHz frequency being used by
Telstra provided better range overall than the 2100MHz frequency
historically popular for third-generation (3G) mobile
"I think the scepticism is unfounded," he concluded.
When queried on the issue, a Telstra spokesperson pointed out
his company wouldn't be announcing the speed upgrade to the
Australian Stock Exchange if it couldn't prove its claims.
Ericsson didn't respond to a request for comment at press
Will you be taking Telstra's 200km extended range
claim with a grain of salt? Or do you agree with Gartner that
Telstra and Ericsson are on the level? Drop your writer a line
directly at email@example.com or post your thoughts below this article.