Telstra has a long and proud history of supporting regional Australia. Whether it be through our support of local community clubs and businesses, our commitment to delivering leading technology to remote areas, or our on-the-ground support in times of emergency – Telstra has always aspired to support those living in regional and rural Australia.

In 2016, we committed to continue investment to improve and expand our mobile networks for those living in regional and rural Australia, including hundreds of new sites through the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spots program and upgrading hundreds more to the latest 4G capabilities.

The recent ACCC inquiry into regulated mobile roaming led to some of Telstra’s investment plans being put on hold until a decision was made.

In early May 2017, the ACCC announced their draft decision to not declare mobile roaming, which gave us the necessary confidence to continue with some key investments in regional Australia. We have recommenced work on a number of upgrades to our mobile network and looked at what further technology enhancements we could make to support those in regional and rural Australia.

Providing even more Australians with 4G coverage

I’m extremely proud to say we have now expanded our 4G coverage to reach 99 per cent of the Australian population. This means our 4G coverage spans more than 1.4 million square kilometres, providing even more Australians with access to our world leading network.

We now have more than 7,000 4G sites across our network. These include areas like Kongwak, a small town in Victoria with a population of just 193; Taylors Arm in northern NSW, home to the Pub with No Beer made famous by the Slim Dusty song of the same name; and Green Island, a popular tourist destination in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

Combined, Telstra’s 3G and 4G coverage now reaches 99.4% of the population (up from 99.3%) and covers 2.4 million square kilometres of the Australian landmass, including hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of regional and rural Australia not served by any other carrier.

If the ACCC draft decision is confirmed, we will commence planning to extend our 4G footprint to approach that of our 3G service delivering a further 1 million square kilometres of 4G coverage beyond what we have today for regional and rural Australia.

Delivering more for industry in the city as well as in regional and rural Australia

Further to this, we’ve delivered another Australian first by activating one of the largest Internet of Things (IoT) enabled networks in the world through our Cat M1 technology.

Cat M1 operates over our 4GX network and enables IoT devices to have greater reach in distance and depth into buildings. We will soon deploy range extension capability and be able to offer customers with a Cat M1 enabled device a network footprint that is around three million square kilometres in area and penetrates far deeper into city buildings than 4G coverage has ever reached before. This will enable connectivity to such things as sensors in basements or communications panels in lifts. Cat M1 can even enable VoLTE voice calling on small portable devices with long battery life devices such as watches.

We have also commenced the roll out and testing software that supports the Narrowband IoT (NB IoT) standard. NB IoT will deliver similar benefits of coverage and depth as Cat M1 for simpler devices that transmit small amounts of data that can be optimised for even longer battery life.

Industry in regional and rural Australia is likely to benefit most from these technologies and extensive coverage, as Cat M1 and NB IoT are ideally suited to use cases like agriculture, transportation and mining.

For instance, a sensor or meter could be deployed at a farm to track livestock or collect data on things like soil moisture, rainfall, air quality, and wind speed and direction. Because data collection can be automated and real time, decisions can be made and optimised faster than ever before increasing productivity, improving quality or shortening time to market.

This is a network that makes the future possible for regional and rural Australia. At Telstra we know connectivity is vital to regional, rural and remote communities, which is why we have consistently weighted network investments towards extending coverage. We’ve demonstrated this commitment over many years and as long as the right investment incentives remain in place we will continue to do so.

Visit Telstra’s Regional Hub.