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Regulated Roaming “Undermines” Telstra’s $1 Billion Regional Expansion

18 Nov 2016

A proposal currently under consideration by the ACCC that could see mobile phone companies “piggyback” onto the Telstra network in regional areas would put up to $1 billion of future investments at risk, the company said.

Telstra announced at its investor meeting yesterday that it will direct 15% of investments in mobile network infrastructure to the most remote 2% of the country. Over the next four to five years, the company will invest $350 million in regional base stations and new technology, $240 million into Telstra’s Mobile Black Spot Programme and up to $200 million for regional co-investments.

“If Australia ends up with regulated mobile roaming, the real losers will be regional communities who want more coverage,” Telstra’s group managing director of networks Mike Wright said in a blog post.

“That’s because forcing Telstra to allow other companies – who have decided not to invest over a number of years to deliver more coverage to their customers – to piggyback on our network infrastructure and spectrum undermines the business case for all these investments. We don’t want that to happen and we don’t believe regional communities do either,” Wright said.

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Vodafone extends $5 roaming to more countries

15 Nov 2016

The carrier's $5 roaming service now includes Canada and a number of South Pacific nations.

Vodafone's $5 roaming service means its customers can use their plan inclusions when travelling in 58 countries, including plans with “infinite standard national minutes”.

This arrangement effectively means that the first use of the phone costs $5 and the marginal cost is zero for the subsequent 24 hours as long as they stay within the plan limits. Receiving a text does not count as using the phone.

The latest countries to be added to $5 roaming are Canada, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Vodafone pointed out that this means the whole of North America and most of the South Pacific are now included.

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Telco tower to combat mobile blackspots on Mount Ousley Road

13 Nov 2016

The notorious mobile blackspot along Mount Ousley Road could soon have better coverage, if Optus’s plans for a new telecommunications facility are approved. 

The mobile provided has lodged a proposal with Wollongong City Council to boost its 3G/4G network with a 30 metre high tower in Cataract, located on a rural property on Mount Ousley Road near Picton Road.

According to the proposal, which is open for public comment until Wednesday, Optus says its service in the area is “poor” and customers experience slow internet and call dropouts. 

“This is due to capacity problems with the surrounding base stations and the lack of Optus wireless services in the Mount Ousley area.”

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Mobile services ID checking requirements under review

09 Nov 2016

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is undegoing public consultation on proposed regulatory changes aimed at improving the identity-checking requirements for prepaid mobile services.

The ACMA issued a discussion paper on Monday following a 10-month  review the authority conducted of the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013 and the issuing of recommendations by a joint industry and government agency working group (PWG).

The proposed regulatory changes apply to eight of the 17 recommendations developed by the PWG to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of current regulatory arrangements.

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Vodafone UK hails results of Massive MIMO trial with TD-LTE

09 Nov 2016

Network leads the pack in preparing for 5G

Massive MIMO is an increasingly important element of operators’ plans for LTE-Advanced Pro and for 5G, despite a lack of devices and mass market chipsets on the near horizon. But the tests are piling up, many of them in China, Japan and Korea – but Vodafone UK is claiming the first in Europe in the 2.6 GHz TDD band.

The unpaired spectrum is underused in Europe and many other regions, but will be an important source of affordable capacity for mobile data in future, and deployments in China, the US and elsewhere are creating a wide ecosystem for TD-LTE in the bands between 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz.

Vodafone ran its trial with Huawei on its commercial network in its Newbury, Berkshire headquarters, and it claimed significant improvements in spectrum efficiency and network capacity. The UK carrier is already deploying 4×4 MIMO commercially in some areas and is now testing 8×8 MIMO. Kye Prigg, head of mobile networks at the MNO, recently told FierceWireless Europe: “We’re very interested in MIMO and the efficiency gains that that could bring for us.”

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Tower threat to pristine lakeside

09 Nov 2016

MONTHS of protest against an Optus phone tower being built near a pristine lakeside section of Palmerston appear to have been fruitless after the project was granted a green light.

The 22.4m telecommunications tower pegged to be constructed at the edge of Gunn’s Sanctuary Lakes sparked the fighting spirit of the community when it was announced earlier this year. Many against the project, including the now MLA for Brennan Tony Sievers, raised their objections with the Development Consent Authority and Optus itself, but to no avail. Mr Sievers said Optus had been provided with other site options which had “considerably less impact on the local amenity however Optus has refused to consider the alternative, and have proceeded successfully through the DCA”.

”The DCA has now advised there is no third party right of appeal under the Planning Act regulations,” he said.

“I have also been told a civil action would be costly and in all likelihood, unsuccessful.

“This is very disappointing and discouraging.

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Ericsson and Qualcomm successfully test Cat-M1 for Telstra

05 Nov 2016

With Ericsson Networks’ Software 17A and Qualcomm’s MDM9206 LTE modem, the door "opens" for device makers and leading telcos including Telstra to "deliver innovative and new IoT-enabled devices".

Ericsson and Qualcomm report successfully executing "network and device testing of data communications on Cat M1 with the MDM9206 modem, designed to support LTE Cat-M1 for Internet of Things (IoT) applications and services, utilising the 700 MHz band (Band 28)".

Noting the "commercial technical milestone", the achievement saw the successful interoperability testing of the MDM9206 modem at Ericsson headquarters in Sweden, witnessed by executives from Telstra.

Here are some of Cat-M1’s key features:

  • Extended coverage with better link budget (up to 15 dB, compared to Cat-1) allowing LTE signals to penetrate through more walls and floors to reach devices deployed deep indoors or in remote locations;
  • Up to 10 years of battery life for typical delay-tolerant, low-throughput applications utilizing Power Save Mode and Extended DRX; and
  • Lower complexity and cost due to single antenna and half duplex operation, up to 375 kbps.

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End Of October Update

04 Nov 2016

Vodafone appears to be reporting another big 4G push this fortnight with 183 upgraded sites along with a massive 36 new site activations. Most of the new sites are in conjunction with Optus and in Metro areas, but there are a couple rural sites in the mix as well. 4G850 was a key focus for NSW, QLD, SA, WA as well as Inner Metro VIC, but 4G2100 now also becomes the priority in Victoria also with upgrades in QLD, SA and WA also. Vodafone now have just over 76% of their 4G850 rollout complete, with only 19% of towers now supporting 3G850, also 11% of their towers now support 4G2100. Vodafone appear to be reporting their changes in batches which seems to explain their all or nothing in recent reports, I'm sure the actual rollout is a lot smoother in reality.

Optus comes in 2nd again this fortnight with 105 site upgrades but also an impressive 29 new sites, continuing their fast passed new site deployment with 321 new sites so far this year which is way ahead of either Telstra or Vodafone and still ahead of NBN. What’s even more impressive is the almost 800 new site proposals this year alone which I suspect will soon become Optus' top priority once their 4G700 rollout is mostly complete. Optus currently has just over 70% of sites with 4G700 so by mid next year I suspect that will be closer to over 90% and will allow it to be the main coverage band for 4G. Once that happens phones will no longer drop back to 3G so frequently and with wider coverage of VoLTE the need for 3G will diminish significantly for newer phones.

Telstra with its slow and steady but relentless rollout of 4G700 continues to plod along with 91 site upgrades and 13 new sites. Upgrades are almost exclusively 4G700, but 4G1800 was also deployed on a few sites along with 4G2600. Site upgrades were scattered all over the country in both rural and metro areas but TAS and NT missed out this fortnight. Telstra now has just over 42% of sites with 4G700 so still a long ways to go, Telstra’s 4G1800 rollout is still larger with just over 52%. Telstra’s new sites were mostly in rural areas but also mainly on the east coast of Australia.

NBN continues its slow rollout, Activating 10 new sites, and also managed to upgrade a further 16 sites. NBN now have 2257 sites listed as either active or proposed, this is still just shy of their expected 2300 sites. At this current rate of around 20 activations per month, NBN will complete their deployment in around 3.5 years which is roughly in line with their 2020 deadline.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 8 sites as Optus tries to keep Telstra at bay. Optus is ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1064 sites.

Vodafone looks for other tower sites following opposition from Hallett Cove residents

03 Nov 2016

VODAFONE is looking for other places to build a phone tower after almost 300 residents petitioned against plans for one in Hallett Cove.

The telco last week said it was considering other locations after a backlash from residents over plans to build a 26m tower at a small group of shops at 121 The Cove Rd.

However, the company has not abandoned its proposal for the site, instead placing its application on hold.

Marion Council received 47 written submissions from residents during consultation for the project in September, with only two supporting it.

Hallett Cove Estate Community Association chairman Robert Dittmar also helped collect 288 signatures on a petition opposing the tower, which he said would be a blight on the area.

“It’s a place you’d have a church or another prominent building rather than an ugly tower,” Mr Dittmar said.

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Telstra introducing VoWiFi and ViLTE, Optus rolling out more VoLTE

03 Nov 2016

Every now and then, Telstra and Optus release information on their software updates for major handsets, and while it’s not usually all that interesting, occasionally there are some highlights which pop out.

In last week’s updates, Telstra begun the deployment of updates for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, S7 and S7 Edge which will enable Video calling over LTE (or ViLTE for short). An update for the Galaxy S6 will follow on November 6.

Telstra have a little bit of information about Video over LTE on their CrowdSupport forum. As the name implies, ViLTE will only work in 4G or 4GX coverage areas, and unlike voice calls, ViLTE uses both a voice channel and video over data, meaning you need to have pretty reasonable reception to make it work. Further, it will use minutes from your plan’s call inclusions, as well as data for the video component.

Telstra’s VoWiFi is (or will be) kicking off soon, and just as the name implies, it will allow compatible handsets to make calls over WiFi instead of a carrier network.

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