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State government, telcos to build towers and install 'repeaters' to eliminate mobile black spots

19 Apr 2017

EARLIER: In-train devices and more phone towers will be rolled out on regional rail lines in a joint effort from telco giants and the state government to eradicate mobile black spots.

But one public transport pundit says a series of failed government promises in the past has him wary about the plan.  

Innovation minister Philip Dalidakis will announce today Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have signed an agreement with the state government to build 11 new towers along the Bendigo line and install in-carriage “repeaters” – devices which strengthen mobile phone signals – on trains.

The plan also applies to Ballarat, Geelong, Traralgon and Seymour lines.     

Telstra area general manager Steve Tinker said customers of his company would have 99 per cent coverage along the regional routes once the infrastructure was in place.

In-train technology has existed on some European services for about 15 years and Public Transport Users Association regional spokesman Paul Westcott said it was “a pity we are starting so far behind”.

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Mobile/satellite plan ‘Pivotel’ to industry progress

19 Apr 2017

SOUTHPORT-based telecommunications firm Pivotel is launching Australia’s first satellite and mobile phone plan for under $100 in a move aimed at making inroads into the grey nomads market.

The company is offering a $99 monthly bundle including unlimited voice calls and SMS messages in mobile mode and $400 of satellite calls at 99¢ a minute.

It is delivered through a partnership with United Arab Emirates-based communications company Thuraya, which owns several satellites.

Pivotel chief executive Peter Bolger said the affordable plan has the potential to shake-up the Australian telecommunications industry.

“No one has ever done a bundle like that in Australia before for under $100,” he said.

“We have negotiated a very unique commercial arrangement with Thuraya ... to deliver an enormous amount of value.”

Mr Bolger said Pivotal hoped to change perception of satellite-phone technology.

“People tend to think satellite technology is expensive but the idea is to try to get people to make lots of satellite calls, stop thinking it is expensive and use it,” he said.

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TPG’s capital idea for $2bn network

19 Apr 2017

TPG Telecom will launch its $2 billion mobile network in ­Canberra next year, offering free services in the city for up to six months, with founder David Teoh confident the telco can ­replicate its fixed broadband ­success in the mobile market.

Mr Teoh told The Australian TPG would use a combination of low price offerings, unlimited data plans and its extensive fibre infrastructure to steal the march on Telstra, Vodafone and Optus.

TPG has a strong track record when it comes to unlimited plans; it was the first to offer them for dial-up and fixed broadband ­services.

Mr Teoh added that TPG should have no problems securing the sites for the 2500 mobile towers that will underpin the ­network and it already has most of the foundations in place.

“The strength of our group is that we have most of the ingredients already in place, so when it comes to costs, the expensive backhaul infrastructure is already there; we have the IT staff, the call centres and the international gateways are all in place,” he said.

“We have been working on tower and site access for many months now and there are lots of parties in the industry that we have great relationships with, so we are very positive with that ­process.”

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Black spot call out

19 Apr 2017

Greater Shepparton City Council will seek funding on behalf of communities with poor mobile connectivity after the region was largely unsuccessful in early stages of the Federal Government’s mobile black spot program.

The council will make an application for funding on behalf of the region, but to be successful, it needs the community’s help to identify local black spots — areas with poor mobile phone reception.

Council economic development project officer Rohan Sali said while lobbying for improved connectivity was not traditionally terrain of the council, it was in council’s best interest to ensure communities were not left in the dark.

‘‘If anything is restricting them from doing business... it’s in the best interests of council to support them.’’

Having hard evidence accompanying any application was another reason for the move and would be crucial to its success, Mr Sali said.

‘‘It’s why we encourage the whole community to jump on... identify any problem areas and how it affects you or your businesses.’’

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TPG Telecom’s plans a shake-up for entire mobile sector

14 Apr 2017

Australia’s $8 billion mobile telephone market will have four players for the first time in eight years, with TPG paying top dollar to enter the market via a 4G spectrum auction completed today.

Together with the $285 million paid by Vodafone for the remaining spectrum the $1.3 billion paid by TPG is a windfall for the federal government, which will collect $1.6 billion against a reserve price of $858 million.

TPG’s entrance brings to the table a proven low-cost operator who will be targeting just the capital cities, and who will threaten profit margins earned by the entire industry including the NBN and, in particular, Vodafone.

Telstra’s stock price fell 8.1 per cent at $4.19 a share — a five-year low — on the back of the news.

Vodafone and Hutchison merged back in 2009 creating a three-player market but TPG’s entry shakes up the entire sector.

It is already a big player in fixed-line services and is a smaller mobile reseller but the company says it will spend another $600 million rolling out its own big city service, which will make life tougher for the rest of the industry.

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Risks in mobile roaming declaration

10 Apr 2017

Vodafone’s Inãki Berroeta’s renewed call for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to declare mobile roaming is a reminder that a draft decision on the issue is now imminent.

Berroeta referred to the “competitive failure’’ of the mobile market in regional Australia in a speech to the CommsDay summit in Sydney, arguing that domestic roaming was the most common and best solution to ensuring increased investment and increased competition.

The ACCC was originally scheduled to publish its draft decision before Easter but it appears the timetable has slipped slightly and the telcos expect that it will be announced shortly after Easter.

There’s a lot riding on the final outcome.

Goldman Sachs has estimated it could cost Telstra $546 million of annual earnings if its network in rural and regional Australia is declared. Telstra has warned that it would abandon plans to invest up to $1 billion in those regions over the next five years if the ACCC declares the services and it is forced to allow its competitors access to them.

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Telstra and Brisbane City Council in legal wrangle over mobile coverage facilities

10 Apr 2017

Telstra and Brisbane City Council are engaged in an ongoing legal wrangle over mobile coverage facilities.

ARN understands that the issue, which started in 2015, was prompted by a lack of mobile coverage in the Paddington suburb of Brisbane. Telstra, at the time, proposed to replace one of these existing towers to improve mobile coverage in that area.

However, the Brisbane City Council allegedly declined that proposal, dragging on the negotiations for about two years.

ARN understands that, as a result, Telstra has lodged an appeal to the court calling on it to intervene in the matter, and for a decision to be made about the replacement of the mobile coverage tower in question.

The case is still ongoing. As such, Telstra declined to comment on matters before the court.

The case follows a similar one in October 2015, where a dispute between Telstra and Broken Hill City Council saw both entities go to court, with the telco requesting that the conditions over a communications tower be relaxed.

According to the report, Telstra intended to build another mobile phone tower.

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Improved reception for Benair residents

10 Apr 2017

OPTUS Customers around the Benair area should now have better reception, with a new tower recently constructed on Benair Rd.

An Optus spokesperson said the company was committed to its rural customers.

"Optus is investing in its mobile network in Benair with the addition of a new mobile tower along Benair Road,” the spokesperson said.

"The new tower was switched on in early April and provides improved mobile voice and data coverage to Optus customers around Benair, and along parts of the Bunya Hwy.

"Optus is committed to improving mobile coverage for its customers and investing in crucial communications infrastructure across regional Australia.”

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Vodafone chief warns spectrum battle with NBN could hold back 5G in Australia

10 Apr 2017

VODAFONE’S chief executive has highlighted a potential issue with the way the NBN’s network in regional areas has been rolled out, saying it could prevent Australia from leading the world in 5G technology.

The telco boss used the opening address at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney this morning to take aim at Telstra and the government subsidies it receives, but also raised the issue of the type of spectrum allocated to the national broadband network to service parts of its regional network.

Vodafone chief Inaki Berroeta believes a certain band of spectrum used by the NBN to deliver regional broadband could become integral to international standards of 5G.

“It has only become clear in the last year that the spectrum bands which are by far the biggest opportunity for internationally aligned 5G services are the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz bands,” he said.

“Other possible spectrum bands do not have sufficient international alignment, and therefore risk leaving Australia unable to leverage the global technology ecosystem.”

Australia’s major telcos are currently competing to upgrade their network systems and provide solutions to usher in next generation 5G technology, a development which will prove crucial for things like self driving cars and super fast mobile broadband.

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End of March Update

05 Apr 2017

Optus again appear to be picking up the pace after a slow start to the year with a whopping 55 new sites. However, the majority of these sites or 32 of them were located around the Botanical Gardens in Sydney’s CBD. These are High Band only sites, and are the beginnings of Optus' 4.5G network around Sydney CBD. However, Optus installed another 23 new sites elsewhere in the country also which were your more standard tower deployments. Among all of that Optus also upgraded a further 50 sites, again focusing on NSW, but also VIC and QLD.

Telstra activated 9 sites this fortnight with also upgrading a further 57 sites with 4G700 being the major focus. Telstra continues to make preparations to redeploy its 900Mhz spectrum but still hasn’t actually activated many of these towers with over 150 proposals this fortnight alone.

Vodafone although now spending much less than both Telstra and Optus, activated 9 new sites (all joint Optus sites), as well as upgraded a further 38 sites with 4G2100 being the major focus.

NBN activated 20 sites, as well as upgrading a further 17 sites. NBN recently announced a new modem device that has new Carrier Aggregation features enabling 100Mbs Down and 40Mbs up and will be available around April of next year. This brings fixed wireless up to speeds currently only available through cables. With 5G also not far away, I believe speeds close to gigabit may be able to be offered over fixed wireless in the not too distant future. Those on satellite or FTTN are going to be left behind in the dust as the money required to upgrade those technologies is non-existent.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 8 sites as Optus again tries to hold Telstra at bay. Optus is still ahead of Telstra however in 4G700 by 1085 sites.

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