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Data drought: Telstra ready to fight for its dominance

07 Dec 2016

TELSTRA  is engaged in a battle to block rivals from access to its 2.4 million square kilometre mobile phone network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is running an inquiry into whether Australia’s three mobile network owners — Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — should be forced into commercial roaming agreements to share their mobile tower networks to boost competition.

As it stands, thousands of farmers and rural communities have no choice but to use Telstra’s network, given rivals Optus and Vodafone have networks covering a million square km each.

Three separate networks has led to duplication of towers, an issue farmer groups have criticised as wasteful.

Roaming would mean mobiles would shift seamlessly between Telstra, Vodafone and Optus towers, delivering what many farm and regional groups argue would be greater coverage and competition.

But Telstra has opposed the move, telling investors an ACCC declaration on roaming would drive down its share price and jeopardise investment in its mobile network.

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End Of November Update

07 Dec 2016

Optus again has had a big fortnight with 18 new sites with 13 in NSW alone, as well as 107 site upgrades with NSW and VIC featuring heavily. Of note however was the 11 site proposals in NT seen here which look be Small cell sites with satellite backhaul. These sites are not part of the blackspot program and shows Optus is committed to not only rural but remote Australia as well. Now that satellite bandwidth has been freed by NBN launching their own satellites I think we will see a bunch more of these type sites from Optus.

Vodafone continues its 4G2100 rollout in both TAS and NT predominantly with 87 site upgrades as well as 12 new sites all of which are existing Optus sites and a few of which were in rural areas.

The switch off of 2G service for Telstra seems to have gone smoothly with no reports of anyone finding themselves stranded. Telstra installed 5 new sites as well as upgraded 57 more with the focus being 4G700.

NBN continues its current pace activating 10 new sites, and also managed to upgrade a further 12 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 1 site. Optus is ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1117 sites.

Blackspot Round2 has been announced with Optus finally getting a look in. 266 sites in total were announced with Telstra getting the majority and Vodafone mostly missing out. Optus got 114 sites, quite a few being small cells with satellite backhaul, Telstra getting 148 sites and Vodafone getting 4 sites. Overall between both programs Telstra has 577 sites, Optus 114 and Vodafone 74 clearly the program has been to Telstra's favour.

South Australia requests ‘urgent’ investigation of mobile black-spot funding

05 Dec 2016

Calls for auditor-general to investigate second round of funding

The South Australian government has requested that the auditor-general, Grant Hehir, conduct an “urgent investigation” into the latest funding round of the federal mobile black-spot program.

The federal government last week unveiled the results the second round of the black-spot program, which will help fund 266 new and upgraded mobile base stations.

The state government committed itself to contributing $2 million in co-funding for the second round of the program. Fifteen sites in the state were selected for funding in round two, earmarked for South Australian co-contributions totalling $1.326 million

“I have written to the auditor general requesting a full investigation into this programme as the lack of transparency in deciding sites is of significant concern to the South Australian government,” said South Australia’s science and information economy minister, Kyam Maher.

“Sites we nominated that were not selected by the federal government under this process include high-risk areas such as Wasleys where the Pinery fire hit just one year ago.”

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Far-west Queensland gets connected

02 Dec 2016

Towns in Barcoo and Diamantina, Queensland’s westernmost shires, are now connected to the Telstra network thanks to 600 kilometres of new fibre-optic cable.

The project joins the towns Stonehenge, Jundah, Windorah, Birdsville and Bedourie to the network.

Designed and built by Telstra, the link has been funded by the federal and Queensland governments, as well as the two local councils.

“At times I didn’t think I would ever see the day when someone could use a mobile phone in Windorah except for taking photos and checking the time — well today it has happened,” Mayor of Barcoo Shire Council Bruce Scott said.

Scott emphasised the “opportunities that the switching on of modern 4G mobile technology can do for the social and economic future for this and the other Barcoo Shire communities.”

“For more than a decade, these communities have sought the support from successive governments for better telecommunication services. My Government has answered their call,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“My Government knows the importance of telecommunications for these communities, particularly in terms of health, education and emergency services as for business and industry.”

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Telstra expanding rural, regional coverage with mobile blackspot remediation

02 Dec 2016

Telstra says more residents and businesses visitors in rural and regional Australia will soon benefit from its expanded mobile coverage, including superfast mobile broadband, under round two of the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP).

Telstra’s chief operations officer Brendon Riley said it would build 148 mobile base stations under Round Two, in addition to the 429 locations selected in Round One of the MBSP – more than $486 million worth of co-investment in country Australia.

“Under the MBSP we will be delivering expanded 3G/4G mobile coverage to 577 locations across the nation, bringing a range of new benefits to these rural and regional communities.

“We know that increased coverage is the number one priority for people and businesses in regional Australia. We have already expanded mobile coverage to 72 locations, resulting in nearly 30,000 square kilometres of new or improved mobile coverage under the MBSP.”

The improved coverage will increase access to new technologies for key regional sectors like agriculture, transport, mining and tourism – technologies that rely on a fast, reliable and affordable mobile network.

“Thousands of people in rural and regional areas can now talk with family, friends and run their businesses more effectively through Telstra’s 4GX service, bringing you the fastest 4G speeds on your 4GX device in Australia (in 4GX areas).

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Vodafone wins mobile blackspot funds for only four towers

02 Dec 2016

Optus and Telstra split $60m.

Vodafone has secured funding for just four base stations in the second round of the federal mobile blackspots program, as Optus reversed its first round fortunes.

Of the 266 new or upgraded base stations to be built under the $60 million round two, Telstra will build 148, Optus 114, and Vodafone the remaining four.

For Optus, this was a large reversal in fortunes compared to the $100 million first round of the scheme where it applied but missed out on a slice of the money.

Vodafone did not hide its disappointment at being unable to secure any significant funding in round two, claiming the scheme had “let down” regional communities and businesses.

Vodafone’s chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd criticised the scheme for handing Telstra “75 percent of sites" under the first two rounds, and alleged other telcos were not opening up their scheme-funded sites to equipment co-location, as is required.

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Telstra labels Vodafone a "freeloader"

02 Dec 2016

Telcos in public spat over regional investment.

Telstra has accused Vodafone of showing its “true colours” as an infrastructure “freeloader” as the war of words over a potential regulated opening of part of Telstra’s regional mobile network intensifies.

The accusations came after Vodafone was overlooked for funding in round two of the federal mobile blackspots program, and used it as an excuse to attack Telstra.

Angered by the round two funds being split by Telstra and Optus – and the lion’s share of round one funding being allocated to Telstra - Vodafone claimed the blackspots scheme risked “further entrenching the dominance of Telstra”.

Vodafone also alleged other telcos were making it difficult to colocate mobile equipment on their towers in regional areas, and that a proposed ACCC declaration opening Telstra’s regional mobile network to others for domestic roaming “would ensure that taxpayers in rural and regional areas get maximum value through the mobile blackspot program".

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Telstra says goodbye to 2G

02 Dec 2016

End of an era.

Telstra this morning closed the curtains on its 23-year-old 2G GSM mobile phone network, marking the end of an era in Australian telecommunications.

The telco estimates around 87 billion phone calls have been made using the 2G service during its lifetime.

But as of today, customers who put off upgrading their legacy devices will no longer be able to make or receive phone calls or use data on the network.

Telstra first announced its plans to close the network two years ago. Both Optus and Vodafone are set to follow suit next year.

Less than 1 percent of its network traffic came from 2G customers when Telstra first announced the network closure in July 2014.

“We launched the 2G network over 20 years ago and in that time it has provided great service for our customers. But like many good things, the time has come to say farewell to the 2G network,” Telstra’s director of device management Andy Volard said.

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Data drought: Bar must be raised for bush phone, internet

30 Nov 2016

EARLY next month the Government will receive the Productivity Commission’s draft report on the merits of upgrading the telecommunications Universal Service Obligation.

Its implications are crucial for regional people.

The USO is the guarantee that ensures every Australian household has access to a landline telephone. Currently the Australian Government contracts Telstra to ensure home phones and a largely redundant payphone network are maintained nationwide.

Prior to changes in technology, the USO was a highly effective way of providing all Australians access to telecommunications.

Unfortunately, the current USO has not been upgraded in a quarter of a century. This is a key reason why the digital divide between the city and the bush has become a critical challenge for regions.

In our submission to the Productivity Commission, the Regional Australia Institute encouraged an upgrade of the USO to include access to both broadband and mobile services. These are the key telecommunications of the 21st century and must be the focus of any future USO.

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‘Ground-breaking’ broadband solution for airlines tested for European Aviation Network

29 Nov 2016

Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, together with Nokia and Thales, have successfully conducted a programme of test flights for the European Aviation Network (EAN) to test a broadband solution for airline passengers which integrates satellite and LTE-based terrestrial networks.

The test flights are hailed as a major milestone in the development of the EAN, the world's first "ground-breaking" integrated satellite and air-to-ground network dedicated to providing a true in-flight broadband experience for the European aviation industry and for millions of passengers travelling across Europe.

The EAN is planned for introduction in mid-2017 and the flights serve to test the performance of the EAN system including the onboard equipment being provided by Thales and the ground network provided by Deutsche Telekom and Nokia.

And, as a precursor to the test flight series, Deutsche Telekom and Nokia jointly achieved the first EAN live over-the-air connection, in Nokia's Stuttgart laboratory.

The companies say all components of the LTE ground network were thoroughly tested and validated and the first live connection in the field was accomplished in a broadband video conference with both parties connected via the dedicated EAN LTE mobile network.

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