Australian network operator Telstra has unveiled a strategy it is calling T25, with the main aim of extending 5G coverage across Australia, as well as enhancing its customer service.
Telstra said that the T25 strategy is likely to come into effect by July 2022. The T25 strategy also aims to bring down the telco’s annual fixed costs by $366 million.
Telstra noted that the new plan will build on the operator’s previous T22 strategy. “T22 has been one of the largest, fastest and most ambitious transformations of a telco globally. Today we are a vastly different company, one poised for growth as our society and economy increasingly digitizes and we all work, study, transact and get our entertainment online,” Telstra’s CEO Andy Penn said.
“If T22 was a strategy of necessity, T25 is a strategy for growth. And in its implementation, we will be using exactly the same disciplines and governance that we used for T22 – the metrics and the milestones, the roadmaps and the scorecard which we will make transparent to you. And this is why I am confident it will be a success – why change a winning formula when you don’t need to,” Penn said.
T25 is Telstra’s strategy for growth, which is broken down into four pillars:
- Provide an exceptional customer experience you can count on
- Provide leading network and technology solutions that deliver your future
- Create sustained growth and value for our shareholders
- Be the place you want to work
Telstra said it aims to further invest in 5G with the goal of increasing the reach of its 5G network from the current 75% of the population to 95% population coverage.
“Our customers will keep enjoying our investment in 5G, which will deliver approximately 95% population coverage by fiscal year 2025 – including a 100,000 square kilometer increase in our 4G and 5G network footprint, substantially increasing regional coverage,” Penn explained.
“Over the next 3-5 years, this will be supported by our continued 5G network rollout and the doubling of metro cells to increase density for greater capacity and speed. As a result, we expect 80% of all mobile traffic to be on 5G by fiscal year 2025,” the executive added.
Penn also highlighted that Telstra will also extend its 4G coverage to 100% of its network by 2024, enabling the carrier to “continue to lead in composite coverage, speed and performance for 4G and 5G as we close 3G. This will set us up well for early planning on 6G, which will clearly be on the agenda by the end of T25,” Penn concluded.
Telstra, which had launched 5G in May 2020, is currently using its spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band to provide 5G technology across Australia. Some of the cities in which Telstra offers its 5G service are Canberra, Central Coast, Brisbane, Sidney, Cairns, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Hamilton, Melbourne and Perth.
In May last year, Telstra upgraded its 5G radio access network (RAN) coverage footprint across Australia, connecting a cloud-native 5G Core (5GC) network to handle new 5G standalone traffic.
Telstra used equipment from Swedish vendor Ericsson for the network upgrade.
Telstra says it has successfully conducted a live “5G” data call using a commercial chipset on the telco’s wireless network. Australia’s largest network operator made a 3GPP Release 15 (not 5G according to 3GPP) compliant data call using its 3.5GHz spectrum, Ericsson’s latest 5G network software and Qualcomm’s commercial 5G Snapdragon chipset in a form factor device.
The operator also said it turned on two 5G-enabled base stations in the state of Tasmania. In August it switched on its first 5G-compatible cell sites to enable testing of pre-commercial devices, with aims to deploy more than 200 sites across Australia by the year-end. Telstra plans a commercial 5G launch in 2019 and is engaged in various trials at its 5G Innovation Centre in Australia’s Gold Coast (see pic below), which it opened in February. That Centre, supported by Ericsson, has since been home to several world and Australian firsts including the world’s first precinct of 5G-enabled WiFi hotspots, Australia’s first 5G Connected Car, the world’s first end-to-end 5G non-standalone data call on a commercial mobile network, and the launch of over 50 5G-enabled sites around the country.
Although the form factor device used for the so called “5G” test is larger than most mobile handsets, it bears a far closer resemblance to a commercially available smartphone than the 200kg, fridge-like prototype 5G device that Telstra was employing for tests just a few months ago.
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone as it signals that commercial 5G devices are getting closer and closer,” he added.
“Field testing in our real-world mobile network with this chipset over our commercial spectrum moves the verification well and truly from the lab into the street,” Seneviratne said. “The team will continue testing over the coming months to improve data rates and overall performance in readiness for device availability.”
Telstra’s chief executive, Andy Penn, has said that he expects the transition from 4G to 5G to be even swifter than the migration from 3G to 4G.
In July this year Telstra said that it had successfully conducted a 5G data call over its network using Intel’s 5G Mobile Trial Platform. In August the company announced that it had started progressively declaring its mobile sites ‘5G-ready’ — a move that rival telco Optus dismissed as a marketing stunt.
The Australian Communication and Media Authority is currently auctioning off spectrum in the 3.6GHz band, which will play a key role in early 5G services.
Fears that 5G use cases do not justify the extensive investments required to roll out the technology are unfounded, and the technology is going to change the world, according to Telstra CEO Andy Penn’s blog post, published to coincide with the 3GPP meeting this week,. More than 600 delegates from the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) – the body that produces specifications used in “5G” trials/early commercial “5G” deployments, and inputs submissions to ITU-R WP5D for IMT 2020, will be meeting at Australia’s Gold Coast this week.
–>See below for status of 3GPP Release 16 which will be the real deal 5G spec to be submitted as a candidate IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technology (RIT) to ITU-R WP5D in July 2019.
Penn wrote in the aforementioned blog post: “Will 5G change the world?” The short answer is absolutely yes. The best way to understand 5G is to realise it is more than just a faster, more efficient technology for mobile phones. What sets 5G apart from every earlier “G” is its ability to carry signals significantly faster. Latency – the time gap between a request for data being sent and the data being received – on 5G is reduced dramatically.
Penn said skepticism about the potential for new mobile technologies has been a common theme with each evolution. “Before 2G it was hard to conceive of the mobile phone becoming a mass market device owned by billions of people. Before 3G, it was questionable that enough people would want to access the internet on their phones. And before 4G, it was a brave call to suggest enough people wanted access to HD video at all times,” he said.
“But in every one of these occasions the demand not only materialized it did so with remarkable speed and on a remarkable scale. Indeed, each new technology has been embraced more quickly than the last. 4G took just five years to reach 2.5 billion people, compared to eight years for 3G.”
According to some forecasts, 5G will enable $12 trillion in economic output globally and support the creation of 22 million jobs by 2035, Penn said.
He said from Telstra’s perspective the baseline business case for 5G is meeting rapidly growing demand for mobile data traffic and addressing ways to more efficiently meet these demands.
“On top of that we see incredibly exciting opportunities to open up new applications and services delivered over mobile using 5G – everything from IoT on a massive scale, to 4K and 8K video, to mission critical services, to remote robotics will be brought to a whole new level by 5G.”
Penn added that the full range of opportunities that will be enabled by 5G will not be clear when 5G capability is switched on. He said Telstra is investing heavily in 5G, including through the planned deployment of 200 5G-enabled sites across Australia by the end of the year, out of a belief that first-movers will enjoy the earliest and greatest benefits from adopting the technology.
About the Author:
Andrew Penn became Chief Executive Officer of Telstra on May 1, 2015 after serving as Telstra’s Chief Financial Officer and Group Executive International. Andrew is an experienced senior executive with a career spanning more than 30 years. Prior to joining Telstra, Andrew was with AXA Asia Pacific for 20 years where he held a number of positions including Group Chief Executive (2006-2011), Chief Executive Officer for Australia and New Zealand, Group Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive for Asia and spent time based in Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia. Under Andrew’s leadership AXA built a successful Asian platform, which was sold to its parent company in 2011 for $10.4bn. In addition to his business activities, Andrew has contributed widely to not-for-profit and community organisations. He is Life Governor and Foundation Board member of Very Special Kids. He is also a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Advisory Council, The Big Issue Advisory Group, and an Amy Gillet Foundation Ambassador.
3GPP Release 16, to be completed at the end of 2019, will meet the ITU-R IMT-2020 submission requirements and the time-plan as outlined in RP-172101:
From Sep 2018 to June 2019, targeting “Final” submission in June 2019
- Performance evaluation update by taking into account Rel-16 updates in addition to Rel-15
- Update description template and compliance template to take into account Rel-16 updates in addition to Rel-15
- Provide description template, compliance template, and self evaluation results based on Rel-15 and Rel-16 in June 2019.
Some Background on Release 16
Australia’s Telstra has launched what it says are the first “5G-enabled” Wi-Fi hotspots in the world. The new hotspots on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia will provide locals and visitors with access to free broadband services during the evaluation period. While there are no 5G-enabled consumer devices available at this time, the Australian telco will connect 5G backhaul and infrastructure from an exchange to a Wi-Fi access point, so it can be used on existing 4G devices.
The open hotspots will provide up to 10GB of downloads per device per day. They will be managed by Telstra’s recently-launched 5G innovation center on the Gold Coast. Telstra has connected 5G backhaul and related infrastructure in the Southport Exchange in the city to allow connections to the 5G network over Wi-Fi on existing devices.
“Wi-Fi has limited throughput so a single hotspot alone cannot come close to reaching the limits of 5G at our Innovation Center,” Telstra group managing director for networks Mike Wright said. “By using multiple hotspots with potentially hundreds of smartphone users served through a single 5G device we are able to get closer to demonstrating 5G in a real world environment. Our 5G backhaul is capable of delivering download speeds of more than 3 Gbps,” he added.
Telstra is also using mmWave spectrum and its 5G innovation centre to put a connected car on the road using Intel’s 5G automotive trial platform.
“Working with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel, we have put Australia’s first 5G connected car on the road. We are in the very early stages of development and are achieving download speeds approaching 1 Gbps inside the car and the vehicle is also equipped with a Wi-Fi access point,” Wright said.
The executive also highlighted the evolution of the telco’s 5G prototype during the first months of the year. “At the start of the year our 5G prototype device was the size of a bar fridge and weighed more than 200 kilograms. Now, in collaboration with Intel and Ericsson, we have one that has been shrunk down to the size of a personal computer and can be installed in a car.”
The 5G center is central to a $58 million investment Telstra has made to upgrade infrastructure on the Gold Coast to support growing demand and major events in the area. Telstra will run extensive 5G trials on the Gold Coast during the Commonwealth Games in April this year.
Telstra previously said that said that it would work with Ericsson on key 5G technologies including massive multiple-input, multiple-output (Massive MIMO), adaptive beamforming and beam tracking, and OFDM-based waveforms in its Gold Coast center.
Telstra will have competition. Australian telecom operator Optus said it plans to roll out a fixed-wireless 5G service in key metro areas by early 2019. The announcement comes after the launch of an outdoor trial of 5G New Radio (NR), which showed 2Gbps download speeds for a fixed wireless service in homes and businesses, the Singtel subsidiary said.
The trial, conducted at its headquarters in Macquarie Park in Sydney in January, used dual-band 5G NR equipment and commercial grade CPEs for both C-band and millimeter wave band frequencies. C-band is within the same spectrum range of Optus’ 3.5GHz, which has been earmarked for 5G deployment, the operator said. The mmWave band 5G network has the capability to reach peak data speeds of 15Gbps to a single user, which is 15x what 4.5G is capable of today.
“Everyone has heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart homes, AI and virtual reality however their full potential will require a fast and reliable network to deliver,” said Optus managing director of networks Dennis Wong.
“Seeing 5G data speeds through our trial that are up to 15x faster than current technologies allows us to show the potential of this transformative technology to support a new ecosystem of connected devices in the home, the office, the paddock and in the wider community.”
Optus will also be hosting a 5G technology showcase during the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which will be held on the Gold Coast in Queensland from April 4 to 15 (this week and next).