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Mid August Update

23 Aug 2016

The past fortnight sees Vodafone take the lead since they finished their major 4G rollout. This suggests that Vodafone is still spending quite a lot of money on their network which is great to see. Vodafone upgraded 134 sites most of which were in ACT, QLD, SA and WA which all received a re-farm of 2100Mhz spectrum from 3G to 4G. The remainder of states received 4G850 and 4G1800 upgrades. Almost all of this work was done in Metro areas. 3G21000 is still running on those sites however as time goes by more and more of that spectrum will be assigned to 4G. Vodafone also managed to activate 12 new sites with 4 each in WA and QLD.

Telstra came in second this time around with 126 site upgrades and 7 new sites. 4G700 continues to be almost the only focus for Telstra. The new sites were located in remote, rural and metro areas while the upgrades were quite well spread across their entire network also.

Optus although coming in last is by no means slacking off, with 119 site upgrades and 14 new sites. Optus also continues to propose new sites also with a further 23 proposals, bringing their new proposals to around 260 in the past two and a half months. Many of the new sites appear to be joint ventures with Vodafone but there were also a few Optus only sites. 4G700 continues to be the major focus for Optus however many sites also received other bands as well with rural areas getting good representation for upgrades especially along the east coast.

This fortnight NBN enabled 5 new sites and also upgraded a further 6 sites, which continues a significant drop in rollout speed.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has reduced by only a further 4 sites. Optus is still ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1096 sites.

Has TPG started building its own 4G network?

16 Aug 2016

Digital dividend spectrum could be put into action.

TPG Telecom appears poised to step up work on its own 4G network, revealing plans over the weekend to design and implement a “LTE network rollout”.

The move is foreshadowed in an otherwise innocuous recruitment advertisement for a “senior network engineer”, posted Saturday August 13.

The top four key duties and responsibilities are to “design and implement LTE”, “LTE network rollout and upgrade”, to “support and troubleshoot LTE”, and to “define [an] operating procedure for LTE networks”.

A TPG spokesperson downplayed the advertisement when contacted by iTnews.

“We’re in an R&D phase,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve always had people in the background from an R&D perspective. I wouldn’t look too much into a job posting.”

TPG was a surprise bidder in the digital dividend spectrum auctions of 2013, snapping up 2600 MHz assets. It also has some 1800 MHz spectrum, which could similarly be used for 4G services.

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End Of July Update

09 Aug 2016

Very little has changed the past two week with things continuing along as they have been for some time now.

Vodafone had a busy couple of weeks with 99 tower upgrades as well as 5 new sites. Upgrades focused mainly in metro areas with 4G1800 being added to many of the towers, but 4G850 remains the main focus.

Optus continues to plod along at a fairly rapid pace with 109 tower upgrades as well as 11 new towers. Optus also continues to propose new sites 58 this past fortnight which brings their recent total to around 240 in the past 2 months alone. This is quite significant as it  represents a 4% increase in total towers should they be installed. Many of the new sites are in rural areas so I believe once Optus is done with their current upgrades their focus will shift to expanding coverage particularly in rural areas. As for the current upgrades QLD was the main focus with 40 towers upgraded alone, mostly along the cost.

Telstra continues with their rapid pace also with 141 upgrades and 14 new sites taking the lead on both accounts. Metro areas featured heavily for upgrades and 4G700 now almost exclusively the main focus but with a smattering of 4G1800 and 4G2600 as well.

This fortnight NBN enabled 8 new sites and also upgraded a further 9 sites, which continues last reports significant drop in rollout speed.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has reduced by a further 28 sites as Optus continues to try to keep their lead. Optus is still ahead of Telstra in 4G700 by 1100 sites.

Telstra extends 4G coverage in regional areas on back of spectrum investment

22 Jul 2016

Telstra has used the additional spectrum it purchased at auction earlier this year to deliver a speed boost for its mobile customers in North Queensland and South Australia with about 200 of its base station sites receiving up to 50% more 4G capacity.

The telco paid $191 million to secure 57 blocks of spectrum on the 1800 MHz band at auction last February. Altogether, Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and TPG spent a total of $543.5 million buying spectrum in the 1800 MHz band at the auction.

Telstra’s group manager director of networks Mike Wright says Telstra paid more than any other bidder for the extra spectrum, which adds to the purchase of 700MHz and 2600MHz spectrum — “double that of any other bidder” in the 2013 digital dividend auctions for $1.3billion.

“This latest investment at least doubles and in some places triples the amount of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band that we may use to provide 4G services in some areas. The 1800MHz was the foundational band for 4G in Australia and it will benefit all 4G customers, even those with earlier 4G devices.”

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Mid July Update

22 Jul 2016

The past couple weeks continues to be busy for Telstra, upgrading an impressive 148 towers and installing a further 7 new towers. 4G700 was almost exclusively the only thing getting upgraded which seems to indicate that Telstra’s 4700 rollout is now in full swing. Telstra however is still rolling out new towers with 3G only although most do have both 3G and 4G.

Optus meanwhile continues to try and keep up but is now be getting closer to the end of its upgrade cycle with over 60% of towers now having 4G700. Optus managed 104 upgrades as well as 19 new towers, with a further 47 new tower proposals that brings their new tower proposals to almost 180 in the past 6 weeks alone.  Once Optus has completed its 4G700 Rollout I believe its focus will shift to installing new towers, there doesn’t seem to be much focus on rural 1800Mhz for any of the providers.

Vodafone woke from its slumber this time around with 49 upgrades and 4 new sites. 4G850 featured in many of the upgrades finishing off some outlying towers not done as part of their main upgrade push. However some older sites with only 3G2100 were also upgraded with their full list of bands. The upgrades were located mostly around outer metro areas surrounding capital cities.

This fortnight NBN enabled 6 new sites and also upgraded a further 10 sites, this is a significant drop in rollout speed with their wireless network rollout almost 2/3 complete.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has reduced by a further 32 sites as Optus tries to keep up. Optus is still ahead of Telstra in 4G700Mhz by 1128 sites.

2016 Mid Year Update

12 Jul 2016

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. 

End Of June Update

10 Jul 2016

Vodafone continues its snail pace now with again only upgrading 25 sites and installing 1 new site in the past 2 weeks. Most are metro with a couple non metro sites added into the mix.

Optus is now starting to lose ground to Telstra as it managed to upgrade only 54 sites, as well as install 9 new sites. What’s interesting for Optus is the proposal of 60 totally new sites mostly on the main land east coast, with a few also around Perth. The vast majority of these are also rural sites which would indicate that Optus is keen to improve their services in rural areas. This comes off the back of an additional 71 new site proposals last fortnight. I suspect these sites will be installed as the 4G rollout winds down, with Optus having 60.27% of sites already upgraded with 700Mhz. 

Telstra continues their current push with 124 site upgrades and a total of 16 new sites, which is a major jump on previous reports. Queensland got 9 of the new sites with the remainder spread out over the rest of the country. Upgrades consisted mostly of 4G700Mhz on sites that a already had 4G1800Mhz installed and were spread relatively evenly across the country in both rural and metro areas.

This fortnight NBN enabled 25 new sites and also upgraded a further 21 sites adding 4G3500Mhz to existing 4G2300Mhz towers.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has reduced by a massive 64 sites as Telstra continues its ramp up. Optus is still ahead of Telstra in 4G700Mhz by 1160 sites.

Vodafone switches on 4G for five MVNOs

28 Jun 2016

Vodafone has opened its 4G network to five mobile virtual network operators.

Lebara, Macquarie Telecom, Hello Mobile, GoTalk and Pivotel Prepaid will gain access to the telco’s network over the next two weeks, Vodafone announced this morning.

Vodafone head of wholesale Paul Tierney said: “We’ve invested billions of dollars in the Vodafone network over recent years, and we’re very pleased to be offering our fast, reliable 4G services to more of our MVNOs.

“Provided they have a 4G-capable device, customers of these MVNOs will be able to enjoy the Vodafone 4G network for browsing the internet, and streaming, uploading and downloading content.”

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Turnbull pledges $12m to mobile coverage for Central Coast trains

25 Jun 2016

Wi-fi at stations and non-stop phone use for commuters.

The Turnbull government this morning promised to spend $12 million improving mobile phone coverage for train commuters between Sydney and Newcastle if it wins next weekend’s election.

The policy will deliver continuous in-train mobile coverage for travellers between the northern Sydney suburb of Hornsby, and Wyong on the Central Coast, plus wi-fi at each station.

The federal government expects the rollout to receive an additional $4 million from the NSW state government.

The state government will also be asked to provide access to land along the rail corridor, as well as assistance with planning approvals for the new infrastructure.

An expression of interest process will be set up allowing mobile carriers to bid to build the new capability.

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Ericsson: 5G migration won't be a terrifying slog. No. We have ‘plug-ins’

25 Jun 2016

Analysis All the network equipment providers are engaged in major operator projects which they hope will guarantee them a place in those MNOs’ 5G rollouts in the coming years. This week, it was certainly the turn of Ericsson to score 5G marketing points, with a series of operator engagements around the world, and the announcement of 5G Plug-Ins.

These appear to tick the mobile operators’ key boxes – to boost capacity and efficiency in current networks, without waiting for new standards, but to future-proof those networks so the migration to 5G is a painless one. By calling them plug-ins, a term that usually applies to web applications, Ericsson made its offerings sound simple, modern and unthreatening. They are “network software - a way to deploy 5G technology concepts on today's networks, while preparing them for 5G use cases and deployments," said the company.

But in fact, it claims these plug-ins will, among other things, enable operators to support Massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) radio antenna arrays and Multiuser MIMO as early as 2017 – surely technologies which will require more than just a painless software upgrade. The Massive MIMO Plug-In is “a combination of Single-User MIMO (SU-MIMO) and beam-forming* supported by advanced antennas with a large number of steerable ports,” says the product description, which suggests a fair dose of hardware and engineering.

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