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TPG Telecom’s plans a shake-up for entire mobile sector

14 Apr 2017

Australia’s $8 billion mobile telephone market will have four players for the first time in eight years, with TPG paying top dollar to enter the market via a 4G spectrum auction completed today.

Together with the $285 million paid by Vodafone for the remaining spectrum the $1.3 billion paid by TPG is a windfall for the federal government, which will collect $1.6 billion against a reserve price of $858 million.

TPG’s entrance brings to the table a proven low-cost operator who will be targeting just the capital cities, and who will threaten profit margins earned by the entire industry including the NBN and, in particular, Vodafone.

Telstra’s stock price fell 8.1 per cent at $4.19 a share — a five-year low — on the back of the news.

Vodafone and Hutchison merged back in 2009 creating a three-player market but TPG’s entry shakes up the entire sector.

It is already a big player in fixed-line services and is a smaller mobile reseller but the company says it will spend another $600 million rolling out its own big city service, which will make life tougher for the rest of the industry.

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Risks in mobile roaming declaration

10 Apr 2017

Vodafone’s Inãki Berroeta’s renewed call for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to declare mobile roaming is a reminder that a draft decision on the issue is now imminent.

Berroeta referred to the “competitive failure’’ of the mobile market in regional Australia in a speech to the CommsDay summit in Sydney, arguing that domestic roaming was the most common and best solution to ensuring increased investment and increased competition.

The ACCC was originally scheduled to publish its draft decision before Easter but it appears the timetable has slipped slightly and the telcos expect that it will be announced shortly after Easter.

There’s a lot riding on the final outcome.

Goldman Sachs has estimated it could cost Telstra $546 million of annual earnings if its network in rural and regional Australia is declared. Telstra has warned that it would abandon plans to invest up to $1 billion in those regions over the next five years if the ACCC declares the services and it is forced to allow its competitors access to them.

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Telstra and Brisbane City Council in legal wrangle over mobile coverage facilities

10 Apr 2017

Telstra and Brisbane City Council are engaged in an ongoing legal wrangle over mobile coverage facilities.

ARN understands that the issue, which started in 2015, was prompted by a lack of mobile coverage in the Paddington suburb of Brisbane. Telstra, at the time, proposed to replace one of these existing towers to improve mobile coverage in that area.

However, the Brisbane City Council allegedly declined that proposal, dragging on the negotiations for about two years.

ARN understands that, as a result, Telstra has lodged an appeal to the court calling on it to intervene in the matter, and for a decision to be made about the replacement of the mobile coverage tower in question.

The case is still ongoing. As such, Telstra declined to comment on matters before the court.

The case follows a similar one in October 2015, where a dispute between Telstra and Broken Hill City Council saw both entities go to court, with the telco requesting that the conditions over a communications tower be relaxed.

According to the report, Telstra intended to build another mobile phone tower.

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Improved reception for Benair residents

10 Apr 2017

OPTUS Customers around the Benair area should now have better reception, with a new tower recently constructed on Benair Rd.

An Optus spokesperson said the company was committed to its rural customers.

"Optus is investing in its mobile network in Benair with the addition of a new mobile tower along Benair Road,” the spokesperson said.

"The new tower was switched on in early April and provides improved mobile voice and data coverage to Optus customers around Benair, and along parts of the Bunya Hwy.

"Optus is committed to improving mobile coverage for its customers and investing in crucial communications infrastructure across regional Australia.”

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Vodafone chief warns spectrum battle with NBN could hold back 5G in Australia

10 Apr 2017

VODAFONE’S chief executive has highlighted a potential issue with the way the NBN’s network in regional areas has been rolled out, saying it could prevent Australia from leading the world in 5G technology.

The telco boss used the opening address at the CommsDay Summit in Sydney this morning to take aim at Telstra and the government subsidies it receives, but also raised the issue of the type of spectrum allocated to the national broadband network to service parts of its regional network.

Vodafone chief Inaki Berroeta believes a certain band of spectrum used by the NBN to deliver regional broadband could become integral to international standards of 5G.

“It has only become clear in the last year that the spectrum bands which are by far the biggest opportunity for internationally aligned 5G services are the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz bands,” he said.

“Other possible spectrum bands do not have sufficient international alignment, and therefore risk leaving Australia unable to leverage the global technology ecosystem.”

Australia’s major telcos are currently competing to upgrade their network systems and provide solutions to usher in next generation 5G technology, a development which will prove crucial for things like self driving cars and super fast mobile broadband.

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End of March Update

05 Apr 2017

Optus again appear to be picking up the pace after a slow start to the year with a whopping 55 new sites. However, the majority of these sites or 32 of them were located around the Botanical Gardens in Sydney’s CBD. These are High Band only sites, and are the beginnings of Optus' 4.5G network around Sydney CBD. However, Optus installed another 23 new sites elsewhere in the country also which were your more standard tower deployments. Among all of that Optus also upgraded a further 50 sites, again focusing on NSW, but also VIC and QLD.

Telstra activated 9 sites this fortnight with also upgrading a further 57 sites with 4G700 being the major focus. Telstra continues to make preparations to redeploy its 900Mhz spectrum but still hasn’t actually activated many of these towers with over 150 proposals this fortnight alone.

Vodafone although now spending much less than both Telstra and Optus, activated 9 new sites (all joint Optus sites), as well as upgraded a further 38 sites with 4G2100 being the major focus.

NBN activated 20 sites, as well as upgrading a further 17 sites. NBN recently announced a new modem device that has new Carrier Aggregation features enabling 100Mbs Down and 40Mbs up and will be available around April of next year. This brings fixed wireless up to speeds currently only available through cables. With 5G also not far away, I believe speeds close to gigabit may be able to be offered over fixed wireless in the not too distant future. Those on satellite or FTTN are going to be left behind in the dust as the money required to upgrade those technologies is non-existent.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has increased by 8 sites as Optus again tries to hold Telstra at bay. Optus is still ahead of Telstra however in 4G700 by 1085 sites.

Data drought: Mobile power without tower

05 Apr 2017

IMAGINE  being able to run a mobile network among your neighbours without access to power or a phone tower.

That’s exactly what a Flinders University research team has developed using a hand-size weatherproof device, Wi-Fi and UHF radio to transmit text and voice messages between mobile phones and on-farm devices.

“If you had a group of people stuck on the far side of the moon, they could set up their own mobile network without a tower,” team leader and computer scientist Paul Gardner-Stephen said.

The team developed its Serval device using almost $2 million in local and overseas foreign aid funding to create a mobile network that can operate without power or towers in the wake of a cyclone or other natural disaster.

Dr Gardner-Stephen said the fact Serval was developed using Department of Foreign Affairs and philanthropic funding meant it was an open-access system with no fees.

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Hermidale tower upgrade

05 Apr 2017

Mobile phone users in Hermidale and surrounding areas can rejoice as Telstra have promised to upgrade the network.

A recent mobile phone outage, late last month, saw many concerned customers complain to the telecommunications company as they could not access the internet on their phone.  

Telstra Area General Manager Mike Marom announced on Tuesday there would be an upgrade to the tower that services Hermidale at Nardoo by the end of the financial year. 

“The mobile site that services the town of Hermidale is being upgraded to 4GX which will mean increased capacity for the local mobile network and improved and more consistent data speeds,” he said.

Mr Marom also said the outage, which occurred in mid-March, was caused by an interference to the Telstra network. 

“We apologise to our customers for the interruption to services caused by interference to our mobile signal,” he said. 

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New mobile phone towers to ease blackspot headaches in rural Tasmania

05 Apr 2017

HUON Valley farmer Malcolm Taylor says agreeing to having a mobile phone tower on his property was a “no-brainer”.

Mr Taylor, who lives at Eggs and Bacon Bay south of Cygnet, said his town had been without mobile phone coverage until the tower was switched on a couple of days ago.

“One or two people said they could get [mobile reception] if they stood near a certain gatepost,” Mr Taylor said.

“You’d have to walk around until you found the spot and then you’d have to stand still.”

The Eggs and Bacon Bay mobile phone tower is the first of 14 Telstra towers to be switched on under the first round of the Federal Government’s Mobile Blackspot Program.

“Our rollout in Tasmania ramps up from here,” Telstra area general manager Michael Patterson said.

“We expect to activate the majority of sites in the state approved under round one by the end of the year, delivering new, state of the art mobile technology to thousands more Tasmanians.

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Mobile Black Spot: Member for Mallee Andrew Broad asks Telstra to co-locate on Optus towers at Yapeet and Laharum

02 Apr 2017

TELSTRA has declined a request to place its antenna on an Optus tower at Laharum but is working on a solution for Yapeet.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad wrote to Telstra area manager Steve Tinker at some point prior to March 23 outlining a proposal for Telstra and Optus to share two sites supported by the federal government’s mobile black spot program. 

“As you may be aware, Yaapeet and Laharum was selected as a site for two new Optus towers. I strongly urge Telstra to consider taking the opportunity to co-locate and to participate in the design phase for both of those locations,” Mr Broad wrote. 

“This will assist in providing improved coverage for the people of Yaapeet and Laharum and importantly play a significant role in developing business, tourism and families.

“I understand Telstra have committed to build one tower in the Wartook Valley area, so construction of the Telstra tower as well as the co-location on the Optus tower will ensure very good coverage and additional safety for this community.”

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