Banding together to get devices for 700MHz
I posted last week that Telstra had been successful in winning the amount of spectrum we wanted in the recent Government mobile spectrum auction and that this additional bandwidth will help us provide the next generation of services for our customers across Australia, now and into the future.
Since then, and not surprisingly, I’ve been asked why we bought 700MHz when there aren’t any compatible devices! The simple and provocative answer is – watch this space!
Each mobile device is preset to work on certain sets of radio frequencies. For example, all 4G mobile devices we sell today operate at least on our LTE network on 1800MHz spectrum band, on our 3G network bands at 850MHz and 2100MHz and also on 2G network bands in the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum (although it would be rare for a 4G device to use 2G other than if roaming). A number of our 4G devices will also operate on the 2500MHz spectrum when that becomes available.
So what about the 700MHz band?
As I said last week 700 MHz works really well in covering large distances in rural areas as well as giving good in-building coverage. It’s a great frequency and we’ve got lots of it; we bought 2×20 MHz blocks so we can deliver the maximum peak speed for 4G and support more users in this band when the spectrum becomes available in 2015.
The spectrum we bought in the 700MHz band is known as the APT700 band.
Originally developed to be compatible with the frequencies freed up when analog TV signals were shut down in the Asia Pacific region, it’s turned out there are a wider number of countries with compatible spectrum plans.
In particular, Latin and South American countries are opting to use this band with Venezuela the most recent to indicate they’ll adopt this spectrum.
We also expect it will be common in Europe and this means we’re in good company.
While all of this is encouraging we still have a lot of work to do to get devices that are compatible but we’ve had a lot of experience in developing ecosystems to support new wireless spectrum bands.
In 2005 we were one of the first operators in the world to announce we would rollout a 3G network in 850MHz. When we launched our Next G® network in 2006 we offered just five compatible devices but went on to work with the industry to grow the popularity of this band.
In February 2011 we were one of the first operators in the world to announce we would deliver 4G LTE in the 1800MHz band – now over 40% of all LTE networks globally operate in this band and all device manufacturers offer an LTE1800 compatible device.
We’ll follow a similar road with 700MHz. What operators all over the world care about is scale and range of devices, roaming compatibility and most importantly, price. To achieve all of these you need to get the maximum possible number of users onto the same standard and spectrum band.
The importance of this goes way beyond Australia and Asia Pacific because if we get this right we should see massive economies of scale that will make the next generation of 4G devices far more accessible to more corners of the planet.
It’s sometimes taken for granted but these devices might fundamentally change the way commerce and education can be delivered in some countries.
We are now playing a leading role aligning and accelerating industry adoption of 700 MHz.
We’ve already started the conversation with international industry bodies like the GSA and the GSMA and will create interest and user groups where information can be shared across the industry.
Telstra also has strong, long term strategic partnerships with key chipset and device manufacturers who are keen to work with us again to develop an ecosystem to support 4G LTE in the 700MHz band.
The conversations are already underway and next month I’ll continue them at some of the key international conferences where I’ll be talking to other operators about the advantage of us all using the same network bands.
I’m looking forward to leveraging the experience Telstra has had in the past and building a new eco-system to bring our customers a great range of devices that are compatible with our 700MHz network when we get access to that spectrum in 2015.