Mobile World Congress is very much a show focused on the future of mobile hardware and the mobile networks they run on. The big development staring the industry is the upcoming launch of their 5G network. At Mobile World Congress, Telstra has announced more of their plans for the rollout of their 5G networks which began with the opening of their innovation centre on the Gold Coast earlier this month.
While the opening of their innovation centre is the first real public facing 5G development we’ve seen from Telstra, their journey to launching a world-class 5G network in one of the worlds most sparsely populated areas began back in 2016. Telstra has been working with mobile network pioneers and stalwarts in mobile communications including Qualcomm, Ericsson and Intel to develop a complete end-to end 5G ecosystem.
Telstra’s Chief Operating Officer Robyn Denholm said that they have invested $5 billion laying the foundations for their 5G network over the three years leading up to June 30 2019.
The multi-billion dollar investment has also helped push the boundaries of their 4G network, while planning to allow access to their 5G network for as many customers as possible when they finally flick the switch on 5G next year.
While the first steps in ratifying the global 5G standards by the global standard setting body, 3GPPS, happened in December last year, the group will meet again in September this year on the Gold Coast to consider 5G commercial standards.
Telstra has spoken a little about the technical parts of their 5G network, stating that it will ‘be able to support both sub 6GHz and mmWave spectrum’. The results from their test centre has been extremely promising results with Ms Denholm reporting
In our mmWave tests we are already achieving speeds in excess of 3 Gbps and latency of 6 milliseconds between Gold Coast and Brisbane, so we expect there to be great demand for this unparalleled combination of high speeds and low latency.
The use of mmWave technology is something that Telstra is approaching cautiously, this is the first time they’ve used it and they’re looking at the best way to deploy to ensure that customers see a good benefit.
With their ultra-low latency and promising speeds, Telstra sees the 5G network as the start of a big push in technologies including the Internet of Things, Smart Homes and Smart Cities, as well as offering their trademark ultra-fast mobile and wireless broadband across Australia.
While a lot of the focus is obviously on 5G, Telstra is still investing in their 4G infrastructure with talks about deploying more than 1,000 small cells in metro areas to further support capacity. It’s important to note that the 4G network is integral to their 5G plans, at least in the early phases with Ms Denholm reporting
5G will not operate as a standalone technology, at least not for most early use cases. So the quality of the underlying 4G service and how this integrates with 5G will determine the overall mobile experience. This will enable the rapid deployment of new 5G speeds enabled by the underlying strength of the existing network.
While Optus has targeted their launch for early 2019, Telstra sees their launch as a staged rollout which will reach both capital cities and regional areas, that’s only worthwhile when they have achieved a full eco-system of end-to-end products and use cases rather than just simply turning on a tap. It’s this approach which is pushing the improvements of their 4G network for now, in co-operation with the launch of 5G.
Exactly when Telstra is going to launch 5G in 2019, they say that plan is still being discussed and we’ll hear more about it as the plans solidify.
Finally, while a lot of talk around expanding the 4G network to support the launch of 5G, the question of the longevity of the 3G network has to be looked at. Telstra says that they have no current plans for shuttering 3G network as yet. In theory they would be looking at a time-frame beyond 2020 as the need to reclaim the spectrum used by 3G as they go along, but as with the shutdown of the 2G network they will be looking at a 2-3 year notification period.