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Vodafone to pay $594.3 million for spectrum

10 May 2016

Vodafone is to shell out $594.3 million to buy 2 x 10 MHz of the unsold 700 MHz spectrum after previously withdrawing from the auction to acquire spectrum in the 700MHz range supporting mobile broadband coverage in regional Australia.

The telco withdrew from the auction in 2013 leaving it to Telstra and Optus to purchase in the 700MHz band. At the time Vodafone said it would only take part in the 2.5GHz auction, not the more expensive 700MHz spectrum.

But, the Department of Communications said on Monday it has received an offer for $594.3 million from Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) to acquire 2 x 10 MHz of the unsold 700 MHz ‘digital dividend’ spectrum. The total payment is to be made by Vodafone in three instalments over three years.

The Government has said Vodafone’s offer to acquire 2 x 10 MHz of the unsold 700 MHz spectrum is an “unsolicited proposal” for a licence term of 11 years and 9 months.

As reported by iTWire, the Federal Government announced in May last year it had directed the media watchdog ACMA to set competition limits on the amount of spectrum that can be bought by any one operator– against Telstra’s recommendation that no limits be set.

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No new money for black spots in the federal budget

04 May 2016

Rural communities hoping to see more money spent on reducing mobile phone black spots will be disappointed by this year's federal budget.

The Coalition has not allocated any new funding for its Mobile Black Spot programme, whereby it works with telecommunications companies and state governments to help build new phone towers in regional areas.

Dodgy or non-existent mobile reception and slow internet are a major problem for regional communities, who complain that poor coverage is a serious safety issue and hurts local businesses.

Everywhere from remote central-west Queensland to within 30 minutes of the nation's capital, residents are increasingly frustrated with black spots and painfully slow internet.

There are 6000 nominated mobile black spots across the country and the Federal Government's programme aims to fix 499 of them.

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OPINION: Feeding frenzy looms as Telstra loses blood

03 May 2016

They can smell blood.

Optus and Vodafone, long regarded as Telstra’s baby brother and nephew (respectively) in the mobile phone war, are both circling their injured prey.

The $17 billion mobile phone war is getting spicy, and you, the consumer, are set to benefit.

Let me explain. Quite often I’m asked who’s the best mobile phone carrier to go with.

And until now the answer has always been relatively simple.

Because of its reach in regional areas, and unrivalled network, my explanation was that if you travel out of the metropolitan area, or live in regional WA, Telstra was probably the way to go.

The excess fees Telstra charged were justified by the company’s ability to give you a signal when others couldn’t. That fact hasn’t changed that much, apart from Vodafone and Optus expanding their reach a little more.

What has changed is the perception around Telstra. Like bagging out Shane Watson, it has long been a national pastime to get stuck into “bloody Telstra”.

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End Of April Update

03 May 2016

The last fortnight has been somewhat quiet with Vodafone seemingly now finished with their main 4G rollout. Vodafone only upgraded 49 towers with only 5 new sites also. Telstra had the most upgrades with 81 and Optus came in in the middle with 65 site upgrades. Optus did however manage 11 new sites, but Telstra also managed 7 new sites. Optus does however seem to be going for blackspot funding for rural QLD with even more proposals in outback QLD which can be seen here. This is in addition to 23 sites reported mid February.

NBN activated 15 new sites, with one 3500Mhz only site also being activated as well. NBN now has 1309 active sites which also brings NBN to a total of 2184 sites either active or proposed.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 9 as Telstra focused on bands other than 700mhz. Optus is now only ahead of Telstra in 4G 700Mhz by 1241 sites. The leader in low band 4G however is now Vodafone with 4 sites more than Optus, although Vodafone uses 4G850Mhz, its comparable to 700Mhz, especially since its believed 700Mhz is not at full power for either telstra or Optus. This is to give it a similar footprint to 3G850 allowing devices to drop back to 3G in order to make calls. Once VoLTE is deployed more widely I would expect power levels on 700Mhz to increase allowing it to offer slightly superior coverage over 850Mhz.

Vodafone AU loses market share as Telstra, Optus rise: Kantar

02 May 2016

Vodafone now has 15.2 percent total mobile market share, while Telstra holds 41.1 percent and Optus 22.7 percent, with the no-contract segment rising again.

Market research company Kantar has published the latest statistics on mobile market share in Australia, revealing that Vodafone Australia, Virgin Mobile, and TPG have all lost customers while Optus and Telstra have grown subscriber numbers.

Telstra now has a 41.1 percent total market share, Kantar said, up from the 39.7 percent recorded last year despite its three network outages. In prepaid, it holds 41.7 percent of the market, up 4.1 percentage points year on year; in post-paid, it holds 43.6 percent, up 1.2 percentage points; and in no contract, it holds 30.1 percent, down one percentage point.

Optus was recorded as having 22.7 percent of the total mobile market as of the end of March, having grown by 1.4 percentage points. Prepaid remained the same, at 21.5 percent, while post-paid grew by 2 percentage points, up to 24 percent, and no contract jumped by 3.8 percentage points to 20.6 percent.

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Government inquiry to consider scrapping Telstra’s USO

29 Apr 2016

Terms of reference released for Productivity Commission review.

The federal government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine options for overhauling the universal service obligation (USO), including potentially eliminating the subsidy altogether.

The USO currently requires Telstra to provide all Australians a basic telecommunications service, along with access to payphone services, subsidised by the federal government and through a levy on telecommunications providers.

The inquiry’s terms of reference, released today, acknowledge that in the past, ubiquitous fixed-line telephone services have historically been a “fundamental part of Australian society”.

However, a range of factors, including technological innovation, the increased use and sophistication of mobile services, broadband data services (including voice over IP) and the NBN rollout have led to reduced demand for fixed-line voice and payphone services.

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Vodafone prepares to roll out 4G to MVNOs

29 Apr 2016

Vodafone will make 4G services available to mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) over the next few months, the telco has confirmed.

Vodafone wholesale customer Kogan Mobile announced this morning that it would offer 4G services to its customers by June.

Kogan said that it would not charge its customers extra for 4G access.

“Vodafone has invested billions into their network in recent years, and being able to bring its fast 4G speeds to Kogan Mobile customers will make our prepaid options even more attractive,” said executive director David Shafer.

“4G coverage is available in all major metro locations and selected regional areas across Australia.”

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Telstra delivers 4G wholesale early for MVNOs and their customers

28 Apr 2016

Anyone who uses a Telstra MVNO like Aldi Mobile, Woolworths Connect, Telechoice and Better Life can now start to enjoy Telstra 4G speeds at long last.

Originally, Telstra was going to switch on access to 4G services for its MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) customers from June 2016.

However, Telstra has today announced it has switched this capability on early, although the 8000-ton telcorilla actually gave Boost and Boost’s customers access to 4G way back in September 2015 - although it is important to note that Boost is not a Telstra Wholesale customer but one of its 'retail' customers - Boost and Telstra have a special relationship separate to Telstra's Wholesale relationships.

Of course, Telstra keeps its even faster 4GX network for itself and its direct customers, but this is to be expected, otherwise Telstra would be undercutting itself completely for no good reason.

In any case, today’s development for the customers of all those other Telstra MVNO Wholesale means they can ‘now start to enjoy 4G coverage reaching at least 92% of the Australian population with a maximum download speed of up to 100Mbps.’

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Telstra complaints are rising but Optus is the worst, reports telecommunications ombudsman

28 Apr 2016

THE telecommunications watchdog today confirmed what we all suspected: complaints about Telstra services are rising.

Despite common perceptions, Australia’s most popular phone provider attracted more complaints than its competitors Vodafone and Amaysim, and more than the industry average, in figures released this afternoon.

Optus won the wooden spoon, however, with the highest rate of complaints and the highest jump in complaints.

New complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about Telstra now sit at 6.4 for every 10,000 services, it reported today, up from 4.9 complaints in the last three months of 2015.

By comparison, Vodafone attracted a rate of 3.7 complaints in every 10,000 services, Amaysim just one complaint, and the industry average sat at 6.2 complaints.

The TIO said reports about telecommunications providers rose 29 per cent as a proportion of services at the start of this year, though “summer weather events” frequently affect these results.

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Mid April Update

17 Apr 2016

The past 2 weeks have been very busy for Vodafone finishing up their 4G roll-out nation wide. 356 towers were upgraded or at least the switch was flicked and those changes finally reported. NSW had 172 changes alone, with SA (77) and WA (63) also high on the list, and NT also getting some attention (26). 65% of all Vodafone towers now have 4G enabled and I suspect we will continue to see more towers in the coming months as everything is finalized. 3G850 is enabled on less than half their towers now and I expect this to plummet further in the coming months. Vodafone also managed an impressive 14 new towers most being outside the main metro areas. Its great to see Vodafone investing in rural areas.

Telstra was also busy with 115 upgrades as their 4G700 roll-out continues as a brisk pace. NSW as also a focus of attention with 44 upgrades alone, non metro area, costal as well as rural inland got the bulk of the upgrades. Telstra only managed 3 new sites all of which were in rural areas.

Optus seems to be taking a little breather upgrading only 77 sites for this period spread fairly evenly across the nation. 4G700 continues to be the focus but you also see some back fill with some sites getting 3G upgrades and even 2G still being enabled on some sites. But optus still managed to install 23 new sites, that is over 2 sites a day which is equivalent to Telstra rolling out NextG. The bulk of these sites was in rural areas so not only is Optus adding capacity but also coverage.

NBN activated 11 sites as well as proposing 6 more. This brings NBN to a total of 2171 sites either active or proposed. NBN has also activated their first 4G3500Mhz tower here.

The low band 4G gap remains around the same this period. Optus now has 1232 more 4G700 towers than Telstra and increased their lead by 2 sites in this 2 week period.

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