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Regions lose in telco policy fight

25 Oct 2016

It is a national disgrace that must be born by every government since Bob Hawke’s that the Australian telecommunications market is still so effectively dominated by Telstra, which rakes off huge profits each year at the expense of Australian businesses and consumers.

By definition that means Australia continues to give up potential, and much needed productivity gains. It has cruelled Australian industry’s collective ability to compete in an increasingly global environment.

In the annual Charles Todd Oration last week, Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s Spanish chief Inaki Berroeta noted that there is virtually no telecommunications competition or choice in regional and rural Australia.

He added that Australia is “one of the most concentrated telecommunications markets in the western world; and that it has “relatively low fixed-broadband penetration and some of the highest fixed-line prices in the world.”

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Mobile blackspot no more

23 Oct 2016

Tatong is a mobile blackspot no more, the first of Indi's towers to be switched on

The remote community of Tatong is no longer living in technological isolation after its new mobile phone tower was switched on.

From having no reception, which put residents in danger in the event of a bushfire or other emergency, Tatong now has coverage Telstra claims is equivalent to that in any Australian city.

The tower was first to be switched on of the 30 funded through the federal government’s mobile blackspot program, in a partnership between Telstra and state and local governments.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan said it was an exciting day.

Tatong, positioned at the foothills of the Tolmie ranges near Benalla, was full of farmers growing businesses.

“There is up to 500 families that are going to be benefiting from this tower – they haven’t had access to mobile phone coverage and they haven’t had access to the internet, in terms of good quality internet,” Ms McGowan said.

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ACMA starts discussion of spectrum re-farming for 5G

21 Oct 2016

International plans for the early adoption of 3.6GHz for 5G services have led the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to bring forward public discussion of the use of this part of spectrum.

In Australia, the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands are used for a variety of services, including fixed-broadband and other fixed radio services, satellite services, and military purposes.

"In the last year, consideration of these bands for mobile broadband has progressed significantly on the international stage," said acting ACMA chairman Richard Bean. "Given the momentum developing, the time is right for us to consider the potential for re-planning the bands in Australia."

ACMA has released a discussion paper — Future use of the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands — and has invited public comment on the issues.

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How Vodafone came back from Vodafail

19 Oct 2016

IT WAS the perfect storm.

In mid-2009, Vodafone had just merged with 3 — the Hong Kong company that completely disrupted the mobile industry at the start of the 3G age. It was a move that was meant to cover Vodafone’s bases before the impending smartphone revolution. But the revolution had already begun.

While Optus and Telstra had been preparing for the surge in data usage for several years, Vodafone and its engineers had focused their time on the merger. When the sudden surge of data demand hit, the telco’s resources were stretched and base stations could not be built or upgraded to cope with the demand. Add to that an influx of customers moving to the network due to what appeared to be the best value mobile plans in the business, and Vodafone was face-to-face with a tsunami that was going to take it out.

And take it out it did. More than two million customers left the network between 2010 and 2013. Calls dropped out, data was slow and to call the coverage patchy would have been a compliment. Enter four years of #Vodafail.

Fast-forward to today and the company has turned around completely. It boasts arguably the best metro mobile network in the country, and some of the best value plans.

It’s a result of more than $3 billion of infrastructure and customer support investment, including building one of the fastest 4G networks in the country.

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Mid October Update

19 Oct 2016

The big news this fortnight is Vodafone’s rollout of 4G2100 upgrading a total of 159 sites with 69 site upgrades in QLD alone. Previously ACT, QLD, SA and WA were the states of focus, so it would seem that continues with the exception of ACT, VIC and NSW also got a couple of 4G2100 upgrades which would indicate that perhaps those states are next on this rollout list. Vodafone also managed to install 11 new sites mostly in conjunction with Optus.

Optus comes in next with 67 site upgrades as well as 17 new sites. Optus recently begun rolling out 4G900 and continues to do so, with 2G not being switched off for another 6 or so months it’s hard to imagine they have the spectrum in that band to actually deploy it. Perhaps they are rolling it out but not actually activating it until the switch off of 2G, time will tell. 

Telstra continues to plod along with 60 site upgrades as well as 5 new sites. 4G700 continues to be Telstra’s focus, with one 2G only tower also finally getting 3G in preparation of their 2G switch off no doubt.

NBN continues its slow rollout, Activating 9 new sites. NBN also managed to upgrade a further 12 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has decreased by 10 sites as Telstra continues plod along. Optus is still ahead of Telstra however in 4G700 by 1056 sites.

Government seeking Triple Zero IP-based calls provider

16 Oct 2016

The Triple Zero call system will soon be transitioning to an IP-based environment, with the government also wanting more accurate location-based information from mobile calls.

The Australian government has put out a request for expressions of interest (EOI) for carriers to provide an "enhanced" Triple Zero emergency call service to keep up with evolving technologies, as well as an EOI process for solutions to allow location-based information from mobile phone emergency calls to be sent automatically.

The EOI processes are in response to 2014's Review of the National Triple Zero (000) Operator, which recommended that the Triple Zero service be transitioned to an IP environment.

"Australians' expectations regarding emergency assistance have changed since Triple Zero was introduced as a voice-only service in 1961, when fixed-line telephones were the primary means of communication," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said on Thursday.

"Today, the majority of calls to Triple Zero come from mobile phones, and the rapid development of new technologies has enabled a range of new communications options. The EOI process is the latest step in ensuring all Australians have access to a world-class service which can keep pace with new and innovative technologies."

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Telstra's fight to keep mobile network to itself

15 Oct 2016

Australia's telecos finally got back to what they do best this week - publicly sledging each other over competition issues.

No wonder the gloves are off. The competition watchdog sent shockwaves through the sector last month when it launched an inquiry into domestic mobile roaming services - including the crucial question of whether Telstra should be forced to share its prized regional network with its competitors at commercial rates.

For Telstra's rivals, Vodafone and TPG, the action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission represents a prime opportunity to prise open Telstra's lock on mobile signals around Australia and its unrivalled status as the offerer of Australia's biggest network. For Telstra, it represents a threat so stark that it is mobilising its army of 1.4 million retail shareholders and laying out battle plans.

It is a fight that is pitting a big one-time monopoly against smaller upstarts, and retail shareholders against regional customers. And it is now threatening to spill over into the political realm.

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TPG ‘keen’ to get its hands on 700MHz spectrum

08 Oct 2016

Telco wants to add spectrum in the 700MHz band to its existing holdings

TPG says it welcomes a decision by the government to ditch previously mooted plans to sell spectrum in the 700MHz band to Vodafone Hutchison Australia.

Instead the government announced today that the Australian Communications and Media Authority would hold an auction to dispose of the 2x15MHz left over after the 2013 Digital Dividend spectrum sell-off.

Along with Telstra and Optus, TPG stridently opposed a draft ministerial direction that, if implemented, would have seen Vodafone pay $590 million for most of the remaining 700MHz spectrum.

“As I have previously stated, we believe that wireless connectivity will play an increasing role in the future needs of the Australian telecommunications consumers,” TPG CEO and chairperson David Teoh said in a statement after the government's decision was made public.

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Govt rejects Vodafone's $594m bid for 700 MHz

08 Oct 2016

Will auction off the 700 MHz instead.

Vodafone's half a billion dollar offer for a slice of the 700 MHz spectrum it declined to bid for in the Commonwealth's 2013 spectrum auction has been knocked back by the government, which will take the unsold spectrum to auction instead.

Telstra, Optus and TPG purchased a combined $2 billion of the 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands on sale in the auction, leaving 30 MHz of the 700 MHz on offer - around $1 billion in value - sitting with the government.

Vodafone declined to participate in the auction at the time, and the government was unable to sell the spectrum outside of auction in the following two years.

However, in May this year Vodafone offered the government $594 million for 2 x 10 MHz of the leftover spectrum.

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End Of September Update

03 Oct 2016

This past fortnight the status quo continues with Telstra again leading the charge rolling out 4G700. Upgrading 122 towers and installing a further 6 new towers 4G1800 also continues to be rolled out ahead of it 4G700 upgrade in many areas.

The most interesting thing this fortnight comes from Optus with it adding 4G1800 to many of its rural new tower proposals. A wider rollout for that band to existing towers has yet to materialise except for a few towers here and there. This leads me to believe that Optus will focus more on rolling out new towers once their wider 4G700 upgrade is complete rather than focusing on their rural 4G1800 band other than for congestion relief in specific areas. Optus managed 80 tower upgrades as well as installing 12 new sites.

Vodafone has just announced the shutdown of their 2G network bringing 2G services to a close in this country on September 30, 2017. The only exception is Telstra’s 2G network on Christmas Island will continue to operate post its 2G shutdown on December 1, 2016. Vodafone managed to upgrade 70 sites as well as installing 11 new sites, it seems Vodafone is focusing on round 2 of its 4G850 upgrade with NSW getting 40 upgrades alone.

NBN continues its recent slowly slowly rollout, Activating 13 new sites. NBN also managed to upgrade a further 6 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has decreased by 35 sites as Telstra continues to powers on surpassing 3000 4G700 towers. Optus is still ahead of Telstra however in 4G700 by 1066 sites.

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