7,500 sites…. We’re just getting on with the job
I visited Seoul and then Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai last week, and it is true to say that the world has jumped on the 4G bandwagon with LTE. Wireless traffic is increasing as traditional devices such as smartphones, tablets and dongles are added to the network. And as we see machine to machine applications really take off, in everything from cars to coffee machines, our customers will demand the better capacity and performance certainty we can achieve by adding LTE to our network.
This visit drove home for me just how much we have come to expect on fast, reliable networks with the capacity to meet the ever growing demand for mobile data. Each year traffic on our fixed and wireless network is doubling – this is a trend that is being seen right across the world. About as much traffic throughput was added to our Next G® network in 2011/12 as was added to the network between launch in 2006 and the end of financial year 2011. That’s the kind of fact that makes me take a deep breath!
Managing this enormous growth in traffic requires significant ongoing investment for our customers. To date we have spent over $3.5 billion on this network – and there’s more to come.
It took a lot of confidence in the future of wireless data to make these network commitments. We’ve taken a few risks and achieved some world firsts along the way. Launching the first – and so far only – commercial 4G LTE services on our Next G® network in Australia last year, well ahead of when we would have otherwise seen 4G LTE in Australia. Stimulating the LTE1800 ecosystem so that we could offer 4G services to Australians was a risk, but one that has already brought benefits to our customers who are taking advantage of the range of 4G handsets we now offer on this network. This follows being the first carrier in the world to offer advanced evolution of 3G speeds, providing our customers the best mobile broadband experience in Australia (and by some measures, the world).
I’ve shared previously that we now have over 1000 LTE enabled base stations offering coverage to over 40 per cent of the population. But this is just part of the story. This year alone we completed around 5000 capacity augmentations in the Telstra Next G® network in response to the exploding demand and popularity of our network. To keep meeting our customer demand we plan to do even more capacity upgrades in 2012/13.
We’ve built a network that has over 7,500 sites and covers over 2.2m square kilometres of the Australian landmass and more than 1 m square kilometres of out to sea coverage. Ongoing maintenance of this network to continue to meet demand is no mean feat.
All this investment has supported huge growth – not just in data but in actual customer numbers too. In the 18 months to January 2012 we added over 2.5 million customers to the Next G® network, and we now have over 300,000 4G customers. The really gratifying part of this to me is that while there are occasions when traffic gets ahead of our ability to upgrade the network the strength of its architecture and design allowed it to absorb this huge influx of customers, in some ways living up to the reputation that attracted many of them in the first place. We are pleased to see that majority of our customers are extremely happy with the performance of the network both through their feedback and voting with their feet.
In many ways this raises the bar further for the engineering team here at Telstra and while technology is changing rapidly, and how we use it changing even faster, we are getting on with our job of rolling out the infrastructure and managing our investments to keep our customers connected.