Overall, in the past 6 months all 3 telco's were neck and neck, all upgrading just over 1000 sites with Vodafone coming in just ahead at 1100 site upgrades. New sites however saw Optus install almost doubling the number of new sites compared with the other two providers.
With round 2 of the blackspot program yet to be announced, round 1 has been rolling out steadily. Around 11 sites are now active or 2.2% of the total 499 sites announced. We have proposals for 51 sites and 81 sites are most likely already existing but with other provider services active.
Telstra really picked up the pace late last year and continued that on in the first half of this year, Installing 86 new sites as well as upgrading 1021 sites. However it’s still down on last year’s total effort, Telstra will need to increase its current effort in the coming 6 months by almost double if it’s to match last year’s total effort. Upgrades for Telstra were across both rural and metro areas and consisted of mainly 4G1800Mhz and 4G700Mhz upgrade. New sites were located mostly in rural areas in the eastern mainland states. Telstar’s just shy of 7500 total towers over 1500 ahead of its nearest competitor Optus.
Optus was able to keep up its pace with 149 new towers as well as 1018 upgraded towers. It not as fast as last year’s effort but fast enough to keep up with the other 2 providers. What’s interesting is Optus' proposals for 448 new towers which is significant as it more than double then both Telstra and Vodafone with 173 and 163 respectively. I think what that’s saying is once the 4G700 rollout is complete for Optus, although the rural 4G1800 rollout will begin, Optus' focus will shift from upgrades to new towers. I have seen very few proposals for 4G1800 in rural areas for any of the providers, I think initially it will be used for congestion relief in key areas, and not widely deployed until later. Optus has announced a bunch of new towers along key routes in rural QLD, I suspect Optus is trying to make up for their missing out on funding in the first round of the blackspot programme. I have been in Brisbane over the past few months and have noticed that Optus coverage even around Brisbane is poor at best with many towers not upgraded yet, this may also signal a bigger push for Optus into QLD in general but they need to improve their wider network also.
In the first half of 2016 Vodafone completed their 4G850 rollout, so their pace is reflected in this period even though they dropped off towards the end. With 82 new towers and 1101 upgrades they managed to upgrade the most towers in the period. Many of the upgrades were to Vodafone’s rural network as that was the piece that was yet to be upgraded as Vodafone has limited spectrum options in rural areas. With only 5mhz of 850Mhz it could not be split between 3G and 4G like it could in metro areas where they have 10Mhz. Now that Vodafone has completed their rollout, already their pace has dropped off considerably and I expect that in the latter half of this year they will plod along at their usual speed without losing too much ground to the other 2 providers.
NBN activated 232 new sites in the first half of 2016, with 161 additional proposals made. NBN is also now upgrading tower with 4G3500 and managed to upgrade 266 towers and propose a further 281 upgrades. NBN now has 1405 sites active which means their network is around 2/3 complete. 2200 towers now have either been made active or proposed, 2300 is roughly their target so there are only around 100 more towers that have yet to be announced.