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Telstra exposes more of NBN Co's fixed wireless woes

13 Mar 2018

As it emerges six percent of towers are officially congested.

Telstra has revealed around half of NBN fixed wireless users on 12Mbps and 25Mbps plans see 40 percent or less of the speeds they pay for in the evening peak.

The telco has quietly become the first in Australia to publish typical 7pm-11pm download speeds for NBN fixed wireless as well as NBN fixed line.

This is above and beyond the requirements of the ACCC broadband marketing guidelines, which require typical speeds to be published only for NBN fixed line services.

Telstra’s numbers, together with a new figure from NBN Co, provide a better indication of how congested the NBN fixed wireless network is.

NBN Co considers towers or cells to require upgrades when they dip below 6Mbps per user during the evening peak. The upgrade becomes critical if performance dips below 3Mbps.

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Telstra to improve Darling Downs, Western Qld mobile coverage

13 Mar 2018

TELSTRA has reaffirmed its commitment to providing more regional Australians with improved connectivity, announcing $17 million of its own funding will be spent to develop the mobile network.

The funding will be spent on 46 projects delivering new or improved mobile coverage for communities living, working or traveling in the Darling Downs and Western Queensland.

The investment will be delivered through capacity and speed upgrades to existing base stations, new small cells for 4G coverage, as well as Telstra’s contribution to the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Telstra area general manager Darren Clark said the upgrades and coverage expansion would benefit regional centres such as Toowoomba as well as remote Darling Downs and Western Queensland communities.

“We know mobile coverage is a key priority for people and businesses in regional and rural areas,” Mr Clark said.

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Optus trials unlimited mobile data in potential threat to some NBN customers

13 Mar 2018

Optus briefly offered Australia's first unlimited mobile data phone plans last week before abruptly ending the offer after a day, in a move that will be seen by many as a portent to future challenges to the national broadband network.

The country's second largest telco rolled out the unlimited plans to select customers last Monday, as debate rages in telecommunications circles about the ability of mobile internet accounts to cover all of a consumer's needs, even when they are at home.

While mobile-only broadband would not currently provide suitable home broadband for most households, if a significant number of Australians opted to go mobile only, it would loom as a potential revenue disaster for the NBN.

The unlimited plans were made available to select Optus fixed broadband customers, who had no existing mobile products with Optus. Despite sign-ups being restricted to an invite-only system, the unlimited mobile data plans were advertised publicly on the telco's website.

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New mobile phone tower for Wongoondy

12 Mar 2018

Wongoondy farmer Steve Rowe said a new mobile phone tower had vastly improved his mobile coverage and internet services and had made a big impact on farm activities and lifestyle.

“I can now contact staff across the farm,” he said.

“I don’t have to go to the top of the hill to make a business call and we can now enjoy entertainment packages through the internet.

“I did a speed test on the service and returned a download speed of more than 36Mbps and an upload speed of 16Mbps which I was very impressed about.”

City of Greater Geraldton councillors Jennifer Critch and Tarleah Thomas welcomed the new base station and said it was another important step in getting widespread mobile coverage across the region.

The new base station has been activated under the Federal and WA Government funded Mobile Black Spot Program.

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Government prepares to sell off 5G spectrum

08 Mar 2018

Australia’s telcos will be able to bid for 3.6GHz in an auction run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), with the government announcing today it would push ahead with the sell-off of 125MHz of spectrum in the band.

The band includes prime spectrum for the rollout of 5G services (some of which will also rely on the higher frequency mmWave spectrum).

Last year the ACMA concluded a consultation on the future of the 3.6GHz band.

Auctioning off the spectrum will affect its current users, which include some satellite earth stations and point-to-multipoint users in regional areas, such as wireless Internet service providers (WISPs).

The move to sell of the spectrum has drawn particular ire from WISPs.

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'Anti-Huawei law' to take effect in September

07 Mar 2018

An Australian telecommunications law that takes effect in September this year has provisions to address any concerns about companies that are involved in future projects in the country.

The law has been dubbed the "anti-Huawei bill", given that the Chinese telecommunications giant appears to be the main company in its sights, the Australian Financial Review  reported.

Last week, the US warned visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to allow Huawei to supply equipment for any future 5G networks, hinting that there may be security risks involved.

Turnbull was told that Huawei's involvement in any project carried the risk of cyber espionage, and that Chinese spying was among the top two risks on the cyber security agenda of the US-Australia partnership.

Huawei is part of a working group drawn up by the Australian Department of Communications which includes other suppliers and carriers that will help to roll out 5G technology.

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New Telstra mobile base station opened near Coolamon

07 Mar 2018

A new base station has been officially unveiled near Coolamon as telcos work to fill in black spots in Australia’s mobile network.

“The new mobile base station at Old Wagga Road South delivers Telstra’s 3G and state of the art 4GX mobile data services to the area for the first time,” Telstra’s area general manager Chris Taylor said.

Telstra has also announced small cells – basically smaller versions of base stations – will be installed around Currawarna.

“We are proud to be part of this important initiative which extends the latest technologies across regional and rural communities, along major regional transport routes, and in locations prone to natural disasters,” said Mr Taylor.

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Phone tower at Frances needs 4G for better reception

06 Mar 2018

“In a word, it’s crap,” replied Frances Hotel Motel proprietor Ken Montgomery when asked about the mobile reception at Frances.

Even though Frances has a Telstra tower right beside the pub Ken runs with his wife Anne, its signal is so weak that someone travelling to Naracoorte via Boddingtons Road would have their reception cut out five kilometres down the track.

“When we had the grand final of footy out here, nobody could get any mobile access because it just overloaded from the amount of phone users, the bandwidth couldn’t handle it,” Ken said.

“You couldn’t even get a Triple 00 call out. It’s a matter of public safety.”

At the pub itself, the faulty reception has meant that they have had to add an external aerial to their business.

The gaming machines at the pub used to be run on a modem, before the IGC (Independent Gaming Commission) switched to wireless.

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Mobile World Congress shows smartphone innovation is lagging

04 Mar 2018

When the relaunch of a two-decades-old banana-shaped phone manages to create the most buzz at the world's biggest telecoms show, it is time to start worrying about smartphone innovation.

The phone in question — the old Nokia 8810 — was not even great in 1996, and looked more ridiculous than ever when relaunched with 4G at the Mobile World Congress last week. But it does highlight how far the market has shifted from hardware to services in just a few years.

Mobile World Congress, an event designed to show off cutting-edge connected devices, instead showed just why the fortunes of the smartphone industry have turned so quickly. Its vast halls of cheap Android-based devices, with broadly the same shapes and functions, caused little excitement. Even Samsung's big ideas this year stopped not much further than improving the camera on its flagship phone, which does not seem much given the Korean group's $12bn annual R&D budget.

It is no surprise that global smartphone sales fell for the first time in the last quarter of 2017, year-on-year, according to Gartner. Executives at telecoms groups say people are holding on to phones for longer, or buying older devices when the latest sells at twice the price with barely more functionality.

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Security warnings over Huawei in 5G network

04 Mar 2018

Security experts and former officials have warned about the long-term risks to Australia posed by the juggernaut status of Chinese firm Huawei as looks to build 5G mobile networks that will dramatically expand web connections to everyday life.

Fairfax Media understands there are significant concerns in Canberra about the Chinese giant having too much control over the world’s 5G network, which will provide mobile speeds at least 10 times faster than current networks to feed data-hungry future technologies such as driverless cars, robotics and virtual reality.

Fairfax Media understands the Turnbull government is in discussions with a range of other countries about the security concerns with 5G. But any decision to attempt to exclude Huawei would put the government in the difficult position of having to dictate commercial choices to Australian telco carriers.

One former security official who asked not to be named told Fairfax Media concerns revolved around, not just technical risks to core infrastructure, but also the dangers of Huawei having a global monopoly in such a strategically important industry.

“There’s a bigger strategic question about industrial supremacy here,” the former official said.

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