Australian telco Telstra announced this week that it has achieved a 5G uplink speed of 350 Mbps over 5G Standalone (SA) using sub-6 GHz frequencies in a live commercial network in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm. Telstra claims this as a new global record for 5G uplink speed, which is 100 times faster than the average 3G uplink speed.
Telstra’s new 5G SA uplink capability combines its mid-band spectrum holdings to create a 140MHz channel for sending data from the device to the network.
The tests were completed using a mobile test device powered by Qualcomm Technologies’ latest Snapdragon® 5G modem-RF System and an existing in-market NetGear Nighthawk M6 Pro Mobile Broadband device in the live commercial network on the Gold Coast.
The latest software from Ericsson brings together different combinations of frequency ranges and types to enable a single 5G uplink and downlink data channel.
By aggregating carrier bands, it considerably increases the uplink speeds, while the ability to use low band carriers in these combinations of frequencies delivers improved coverage and performance enhancements for the 5G SA Network.
Mr Amirthalingam says: “The uplink and downlink 5G data channels work together to provide a seamless and almost symmetrical like 5G service, meeting the increasing demand for data-intensive applications such as augmented and virtual reality, or sharing photos and memorable movie moments with friends.
“The technology also includes advanced features in the base station that can prioritise different types of data and applications and can support future differentiated services, like network slicing.”
“On top of this, Telstra also has the option to use the n5 (850MHz) carrier that is currently serving its 3G Network. “
“Our latest 5G Standalone uplink speed achievement is 100 times faster than the typical 3G uplink speed, which is great news for customers. Enterprise Applications such as these are increasingly becoming more uplink heavy with things like such as high-definition video surveillance cameras and the faster speeds and coverage will all provide a much better experience.”
“The ability to use low band frequencies and repurpose our 3G low band 850 MHz frequency to deliver 5G SA coverage when the 3G network closes on 30 June 2024, has the benefit of providing improved depth of coverage and enhancing the 5G experience for customers.”
“It’s a further example of how we are leading the way in 5G innovation and investment, and how we are committed to delivering the best and most advanced network for Australia.”
To test and validate this capability, Telstra worked with long-term partners Ericsson, the global leader in 5G network equipment, and Qualcomm, one of the world’s leading wireless chipset companies.
Emilio Romeo, Head of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, says: “Ericsson’s latest software features enables Telstra to capitalize the full spectrum portfolio for a wider coverage whilst providing far superior data rates. Customers will be empowered to explore new experiences offered with 5G Standalone such as differentiated services and a range of applications, which will in turn drive network monetization.”
Durga Malladi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Technology Planning & Edge Solutions Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., says: This live test proves that uplink carrier aggregation on 5G Standalone network has the potential to significantly increase upload speeds and capacity, thus unlocking new experiences for consumers.”
This latest achievement takes Telstra’s World-First count to 53 since the launch of 3G. It is only through its collaboration efforts with industry and its strategic partners, like Ericsson and Qualcomm, that it can deliver the technology innovation and leadership that its customers can benefit from.
Telstra has also implemented Ericsson’s Dynamic Network Slicing software for automated network orchestration. This software gives the operator a fully automated and monetizable network slicing orchestration capability to sell slicing services to enterprise customers.
Telstra, Australia’s #1 telco, will partner with SpaceX’s Starlink to provide phone and broadband services to rural Australia using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Telstra said it planned to offer the new services before year’s end according to a blog post. It also promises higher download speeds compared to copper-based ADSL internet access.
Starlink, operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX (private company). has built a fast-growing network of more than 3,500 satellites in Low-Earth Orbit that can provide connectivity in remote areas.
“Telstra will be able to provide home phone service and Starlink broadband services to Aussies as a bundle offer, as well as local tech support and the option of professional installation,” the telco said in the same blogpost. “This agreement also provides connectivity options for our business customers, with a higher bandwidth business option available in areas without fixed and mobile connectivity. The business offer will be available to purchase from Telstra both locally and in select countries overseas.”
Using LEO satellites will bring new capabilities to commercial satellite services in Australia, including faster communications. Signal distances travelled are shorter, as LEO satellites are vastly closer to earth compared to geostationary satellites at around 35,000 km above earth. It requires less power for an earthbound device to transmit to a satellite and there’s a reduced latency (delay) in transmission time.
Telstra said in its blog post:
One of the benefits of LEO satellites are that they are much closer than geostationary satellites to Earth with multiple satellites that are a part of a “constellation”, allowing them to send and receive signals much faster. As well as offering great data throughput, the proximity of these satellites reduces latency making them a great and more consistent option for services that need low latency, like voice and video calls.
The latency, download speeds and general experience in most circumstances will be far superior to copper-based ADSL and be better suited for most modern connectivity needs. Our team has been testing out in the field Starlink’s service and how we can best offer it to customers, including evolving our own modem specifically to support Starlink connectivity and Aussie households. We’re extremely excited to show you what this looks like later in the year.
Partnerships between telcos and LEO satellite providers will allow consumers to make satellite-connected calls using their regular smartphone from almost anywhere on the planet, whether there is a local cellular network or not. In Australia, mobile calls and even video calls will be possible on regular smartphones operating in remote and rural regions of Australia.
At Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona in March 2023, Telstra told ChannelNews it was working on adding LEO satellite audio and video calls to its network. Taiwanese chip designer MediaTek demonstrated the chips that phones would use for LEO satellite communications at the same conference.
UK phone maker Bullitt Group announced it was working with Motorola to bring satellite texting to regular phones in Australia this year, with video calling via LEO satellites to come within another two years. Their texting service has already rolled out in Europe and the US.
Telstra’s move is in line with emerging partnerships between telcos and satellite providers in the US, with T-Mobile forging a deal with Starlink and AT&T with AST SpaceMobile. T-Mobile and Starlink began testing their service in March.
Optus is yet to announce any service involving LEO satellite services locally, although it has been conducting tests. In November last year, Optus demonstrated satellite direct-to-mobile calls in partnership with LEO satellite provider Lynk.
Vodafone meanwhile has launched LEO satellite trials in Turkey with local operator partner SatCo.
It is a major coup for Telstra to be first among Australia-based Telcos to announce a specific service, however longer term, LEO satellites will allow Optus and Vodafone to be more formidable competition in rural and regional Australia, as LEO satellites will give them a reach that they don’t enjoy due to their lack of ground-based cellular infrastructure compared to Telstra.
Further, the Australian telco market will be opening up to increased international competition if offshore telcos want to join in. In March, ChannelNews reported that Amazon was gearing to take on the NBN with a fast satellite-based internet service.
Nevertheless LEO satellites are a fillip for Telstra in light of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision late last year to veto a deal between Telstra and TPG Telecom to consolidate their presence in rural and fringe areas of the country through an infrastructure and service swap.
The coming of LEO satellite services also will be a test for the ACCC. To what extent does its jurisdiction cover LEO-satellite-based communications, particularly when it involves telecommunication services provided by foreign companies from space?
Infinera has completed a simulated intercity network trial for Telstra InfraCo’s intercity fiber project in Australia. The trial delivered 61.3 Tbps of unregenerated data transmission capacity on a fiber pair over the equivalent of 1,240 route km between Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. The network trial was implemented using Infinera’s 800G-capable ICE6 coherent solution [1.] and Corning Incorporated’s SMF-28® ULL fiber with advanced bend, demonstrating the high-performance capability of the express network, which is part of the intercity fiber network Telstra InfraCo is building across Australia.
Note 1. The sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6), from Infinera’s Advanced Coherent Optical Engines and Subsystems, is a 1.6 Tb/s optical engine that delivers two independently programmable wavelengths at up to 800 Gb/s each. Utilizing a 7-nm CMOS process node DSP and advanced PIC technology, ICE6 leverages ultra-high baud rates, high modem SNR, and innovative features to break performance and spectral efficiency barriers, including 800G single-wavelength performance over 1000+ km in a commercial network. ICE6 is also beating optical transmission expectations at lower rates, including 600 Gb/s and 400 Gb/s per wavelength.
Image Credit: Infinera
The trial was performed with real-world configurations, including 1,240 kilometers of ultra-low-loss fiber simulating one of Telstra InfraCo’s planned express Melbourne-Sydney routes. Infinera performed an in-service, non-traffic-impacting upgrade from C-band to combined C-band plus L-band as part of the capacity expansion process. With Infinera’s ICE6 and Corning’s optical fiber, Telstra InfraCo achieved 61.3 Tbps total capacity with 6.2 milliseconds latency across the combined C-band and L-band, with wavelengths up to 700 Gbps.
Telstra InfraCo’s express network is designed to be a high-performance national network for customers who need reliable, ultra-high bandwidth between capital cities and international submarine cable landing stations. For hyperscalers, global cloud providers, content companies, and governments, this means access to scalable high capacity and more direct routes, with optional route redundancy.
“Based on these results, Telstra InfraCo’s express network and overall intercity fiber build will lead the world in scale, low latency, and high data transmission performance rate,” said Kathryn Jones, Fiber Executive at Telstra InfraCo. “The simulation exceeds our expectations, offering almost seven times today’s typical capacity of 8.8 Tbps per fibre pair and validates our selection of Corning’s SMF-28 ULL fiber in the cable design. This will enable Telstra to develop market-leading solutions for our customers today and for years to come – a key element of Telstra’s ambitious T25 strategy and transformation goals.”
“To meet the rigorous demands of a vast network over Australia’s unique terrain, Telstra InfraCo needed fiber infrastructure with advanced bend capability and minimal signal loss to deliver ultra-high cable capacity. That’s why they turned to Corning,” said Sharon Bois, Division Vice President, Product Line and Marketing, Corning Optical Fiber and Cable. “Our SMF-28® ULL fiber with advanced bend is designed to meet exactly those needs.”
“Infinera’s 800G-capable ICE6 solution demonstrated industry-leading performance, maximizing fiber capacity and reach on Telstra InfraCo’s express network configuration,” said Nick Walden, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales at Infinera. “This achievement underscores the enhanced performance Infinera’s technology can bring to meet Telstra InfraCo’s express network requirements for bandwidth today and into the future.”
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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).