5G | Network | Tech and Innovation |

Our IoT networks are joining the 5G family: future-proofing for years to come

By Channa Seneviratne June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things is the massive network of connected tech you probably never see. But despite its subtle appearance, IoT is rapidly changing the way we live.

We already have two complementary network layers that cater to large-scale IoT deployments: NB-IoT and LTE-M (also known as Cat-M1).

Our Internet of Things networks have gone from strength-to-strength in a matter of years being deployed nationally right across our 4G 700MHz network and covering three million square kilometres with LTE-M technology. With recent breakthroughs on maximum coverage distance per site for narrowband our NB-IoT coverage now reaches nearly four million square kilometres.

The latest news is that both our LTE-M and NB-IoT are now formally recognised as 5G technologies, meaning we have a big head start in helping to deliver massive IoT through the fifth-generation of mobile network development. The global mobile network standards body’s (3GPP) acceptance of our existing Narrowband (NB-IoT) and Cat M1 IoT technologies as 5G IoT technologies means we can continue to support these technologies even beyond the lifespan of 4G.

NB-IoT is designed for carrying very small packets from simple devices, peaking at transfer rates less than 200kbps. That’s perfect for devices that only need to send a tiny amount of data, like water management, location management, and industrial sensors.

LTE-M, meanwhile, is designed for more complex devices that require more frequent interaction with the network. LTE-M connections are better for devices that you need to be mobile and reporting multiple sets of data such as positioning information like asset tracking.

Since we launched our NB-IoT and LTE-M networks, we’ve helped government and businesses of all sizes around the country learn more and optimise their operations.

Agbyte - The rise of the smart farmer with Internet of Things technology

Farmers are using the network to track water supply and help regulate deliveries for less waste in their supply chain. Hospitals are using the network to track down life-saving equipment, helping save crucial time and valuable resources. Logistics companies are using it to track freight across the country and give customers better insights into how their deliveries move. We’re even selling a LTE-M-enabled device to help you keep better track of your expensive gear. And we’re only making the networks that power these incredible innovations better as time goes on. For example, we recently announced the expansion of our NB-IoT network to cover almost 4 million square kilometres, by extending site range from 100km up to 120km.

With both LTE-M and NB-IoT now adopted into the 5G family of technologies, they continue to drive a massive expansion of connected things. This expansion into the 5G future allows our customers to embrace LTE-M and NB-IoT with confidence in the technology’s long-term future.

IoT smart industry robot within agriculture field

5G is a networking shorthand for the fifth-generation of mobile connectivity standards. Each generation – from 1G through to 5G – has brought with it a brighter future. 5G will deliver speeds, network capacity, and via LTE-M and NB-IoT bring scale to potentially connect billions of things globally that we’d only previously dreamed of. The global standards recognition here means our NB-IoT and LTE-M networks won’t be supplanted by the new 5G technology. Instead, these technologies will go from strength-to-strength together as 5G technologies evolve, with the capability to power massive IoT projects around Australia and the world.

Future 5G capabilities are expected to move in lockstep with IoT networks to provide ultra-reliable low latency communications and by leveraging these capabilities of 5G for IoT, we’ll be able to expand the role of connected devices to enable incredible new advances both in nationwide and hyper-localised settings.

These massive IoT deployments can benefit just about every industry. Connected transport, drones, healthcare and infrastructure could communicate with centralised dashboards to help the nation move more smoothly. Meanwhile, IoT deployed in industrial settings such as factories where collaborative robotics could receive almost instantaneous responses from machines around them to enable faster and smarter manufacturing.

Global IoT connections will simultaneously increase in tandem from the 8.6 billion connections at the end of 2018, to an expected whopping 22.3 billion by 2024, all driven by NB-IoT, LTE-M and the future 5G Industrial IoT standard all delivered by 4G and 5G connectivity.

Connectivity – like 5G – brings with it exciting opportunities for business, health, safety and innovation. We’ll continue to improve our NB-IoT and LTE-M offerings as we roll-out 5G to more places in Australia.

Network | Regional |

Making our 4G coverage go even further

By Paul Milford February 28, 2020

We’re always on a mission to bring best-in-class connectivity to the furthest reaches of our great nation. We believe that connectivity enriches lives, enabling new opportunities to thrive in regional and remote communities. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce a new breakthrough with our technology partner, Ericsson: we’ve deployed world-first technology that can effectively double the range of a 4G mobile base station, increasing it to up to 200km.

Until now, global wireless 4G standards have managed to achieve a range of only 100km from the cell. While that’s still impressive, we’re always looking to push our network capabilities further for our customers. Working with our partner Ericsson, we have deployed a solution that enables standard 4G phones to work at a distance up to 200km from the mobile base station.

We recently completed an extended call using one of our sites at Mount Dowe, east of Narrabri in New South Wales. Further testing and refinement is underway and we expect that it will become commercially available later in 2020 across select locations, further boosting network coverage as demands continue to grow.

This is a big win for our regional and remote customers. We live in a vast nation and providing 4G coverage in more places is critical in ensuring that we are providing the best coverage to our customers both in the city and the country.

This isn’t necessarily a solution for everywhere – the location of the mobile base station and the surrounding topography need to be right for the mobile device signal to get back to the base station  – but this will certainly be another deployment option in our 4G coverage toolkit when we are expanding and improving our network.

We continually work with our partners like Ericsson to provide innovative solutions to our customer needs. This achievement builds on previous mobile world firsts, including when Ericsson and Telstra again achieved another world’s first when we extended the 3G cell range to 200km in February 2007.

To ensure you’re getting the best coverage in regional Australia, check out our guide to getting the right gear for your needs.

Holding a glass ball to future predictions
Tech and Innovation |

Our predictions for 2020 and the decade beyond

By Andrew Scott January 7, 2020

The 2010s represented an explosion of technology we never thought we’d see. HD video in everyone’s pocket; gigabit-plus speeds in the palm of our hands and more machines connected to the internet than ever before. The 2020s are set to build on this foundation of incredible technology, and you won’t believe what’s coming next.

It’s hard to look forward 10 years and nail down exactly what’s going to happen. In 2010, for example, we didn’t know that 4G would bring with it a wave of video applications that would surpass our wildest entertainment and connectivity dreams.

As such, we want to take a look forward at what’s coming for 2020 – which we can be more certain about – and ahead into the new decade we’ve just entered. Here’s what’s next.

Top 10 trends for 2020

  • 5G hits the mainstream: Most major smartphone manufacturers this time next year will have at least one 5G handset available for sale. Industry experts are predicting that most major smartphone brands will offer a 5G device in 2020. In fact, Telstra already has tens of thousands of customers using one of six 5G devices available in the Australian market. This is just the beginning and 2020 will see more 5G network coverage and 5G devices.
  • The rise of private mobile networks: Using mobile networks for industrial connectivity can provide robust, low latency communications and high throughputs where required, as well as an upgrade path to 5G. Telstra has already been deploying private LTE networks for mining customers, such as South32’s Cannington mine in Queensland and the Roy Hill mine in Western Australia. Overseas, other industrial segments are seeing the same advantages, and I would expect to see the same pattern reflected here in Australia. For example, both Siemens and Bosch have applied for spectrum in Germany that would allow them to run private networks in their manufacturing plants.
  • The final frontier of networking: Here’s one you might not have heard about: did you know that we’re seeing satellites in low-earth orbit (LEO) to provide internet to remote areas? It’s true! As LEO comes of age, some select remote and offshore locations will begin to use it for low-latency, moderate-speed broadband in 2020. Recently we have seen launches of LEO satellites for broadband internet by the likes of Starlink and OneWeb, and announcements from Project Kuiper to eventually do similar. SpaceNews has reported Starlink will begin offering its service to consumers in 2020, although focused in the USA. Once the capability is available, it is going to unlock many new applications, whether it’s better broadband internet communications to passenger aircraft and ships or flooding an island or area with mobile coverage. At the same time, Iridium – the original LEO communications company – has now upgraded all its constellation to support broadband Internet capability, ideal for remote and offshore locations.
  • From self-checkout to automated checkout: Amazon Go shows what is possible when you fit-out a small supermarket or convenience store with sufficient cameras to track every time goods are taken or removed from the shelves, allowing shoppers to collect goods and then leave the supermarket without manual checking of all the goods. Other supermarkets and convenience chains are now looking for similar technology to Amazon Go and many alternatives have appeared. Startups like AiFi, Zippin and Standard Cognition are offering similar propositions. Given the high convenience of such offerings, it is just a short matter of time before Australian convenience stores see this as a way to attract customers. We are already offering express cashless supermarkets as well as supermarkets that have express-only checkouts.
  • Your smartphone camera learns new tricks: Your smartphone camera can snap great pics. Now what about if it was an Internet of Things sensor? Don’t laugh: it’s becoming a viable alternative to specialist sensor deployments, and it’s already in your pocket. In the first generation of Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, specialist sensor technologies were used to solve specific problems, for example, motion sensors, parking sensors, or heart rate sensors. However, it’s turned out that cameras can be used in place of those sensors and more, and with the continuing improvement in Artificial Intelligence, a camera that has been deployed can be used for additional sensing purposes once in the field. Telstra has done tests to show that a simple Raspberry Pi can be trained up to classify whether a desk is occupied or not, and has been able to use AI-equipped cameras to measure river height for tracking water flows. Enterprises will increasingly consider and select a camera-based solution over a specialist sensor for their IoT solutions.
  • Ultra-wideband become the coolest new chips you’ve never heard of: There will be more devices supporting the new Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, which can be used within a short-range for accurately and quickly measuring distances to other UWB-equipped devices. We have used UWB in our work with Transurban to make roadside workers safer, by understanding their precise position on the side of the road without relying on GPS. While UWB has been a niche, industrial technology to date, I expect the inclusion in 2020 smartphones to give it a boost in the same way that iBeacon gave Bluetooth Low Energy a boost. It might be used to know who is in front of the television and change the profile of shows accordingly, or know whether you are immediately in front of your smart door lock and unlock the door for you. If it gets customer traction, I expect it to appear in many smartphones and other devices over the next 10 years.
  • Smartphones get weird again: For a while there, it seemed that every new smartphone looked the same – a rectangle with a glass front. Perhaps there was a notch or cut-out for cameras on the front also. However, the reduction in differentiation of smartphone form-factors has spurred innovation to find new ways to stand out from the crowd. This year, we have started seeing pop-up and flip-around cameras from various smartphone makers to increase the screen real-estate to be used for pixels. Also supporting the quest for more pixels has been Samsung with its foldable smartphones, providing a mini-tablet that folds in half to fit in the pocket. The Motorola Razr is back again with a foldable screen inside a flip-phone. More than a gimmick, these foldable phones have created a genuinely useful proposition where your screen size isn’t limited by the size of your pocket or bag. It’s also worth mentioning Google’s Project Soli has created the radar chip in the Google Pixel 4, which has the potential to open up new ways to interact with smartphones beyond touch or speech. When a phone is on a table, this technology may allow fine-grained gestures in the air to control it. It’s so amazing and fun to see this burst of innovation.
  • 4G becomes the self-driving/connected car network: Connected cars have been around for a few years, offering maps for turn-by-turn navigation, embedded infotainment, or even remote concierge services. However, the connection to the car is being used to make driving safer. In Europe, 2020 model Volvo cars warn each other of where roads are slippery or if a Volvo nearby has turned on its hazard signals. This was initially limited to Scandinavian countries, and is likely to progress to more markets next year. In the self-driving world, Alphabet’s Waymo vehicles are currently operating in some states around America at level 4 autonomy, which means no one is sitting behind the steering wheel. We’ll see other automotive brands mass-producing similar autonomous vehicle innovations next year.
  • Electric micromobility goes global: Micromobility is the concept that people will use short-range, single passenger, powered transport options like e-bikes, e-skateboards and e-scooters for short last-mile trips to/from public transport like buses or trains. Electric bikes (e-bikes) have relatively consistent rules for use across Australia, however, the rules about e-scooters are highly dependent on the state, city and whether a trial is currently underway. Even these guidelines may change, as different trials are proposed or underway, so the cities and states involved are now in a position to be able to set clear regulations that safely enable the technology for the public.

Top 11 trends for the decade

Step into the future with us as we ponder what will be possible with technology in 2030!

  • The death of the password: we’re already seeing the beginning of the end for passwords, which will decline over the decade. (Hooray!);
  • Telcos go open source: open source adoption in the telco industry accelerates innovation and enables standardisation and commodification of much of the telco hardware stack. We’re already doing it!;
  • Next-generation wireless: the introduction of 6G and Wi-Fi 7 later in the decade based on typical standards organisation timeframes;
  • More secure Internet of Things (IoT): cybersecurity solutions to come packaged with IoT connectivity to address risks of connecting up everything;
  • IoT goes battery-free: monitoring and positioning devices can be left in the field for as long as the sensors last;
  • Brain-machine interfaces: research such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink enables people to interact with machines without moving a muscle;
  • The rise of quantum computers: viable quantum computers for solving real-world useful problems will emerge, but will probably not be readily available to members of the public;
  • Bio-computers: systems of biologically derived molecules (such as DNA and proteins) to perform computational calculations involving storing, retrieving, and processing data;
  • Connected aerial vehicles will take flight: Remotely piloted drones for imagery, sensing, delivery and even transport applications become commonplace;
  • Driverless cars will finally arrive: true automated features will appear in mid-range vehicles such as speed zone aware cruise control and automated highway driving, and remote driving will become possible in certain areas, and
  • AR headsets will see the light: the rise of smart eyewear will finally displace screens in the pocket.

Here’s to the next techade!

Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

Tech of the decade: how the 2010s changed sport and entertainment

By Luke Hopewell December 24, 2019

The 2010s haven’t just changed the way we talk. They’ve changed what we talk about. Everyone now has a show; a channel; a niche that’s specifically catered to thanks to an explosion in content.

This piece is part one of a three-part series on how technology shaped the last decade of our lives. You can read more about the tech of the decade here.

In 2010, Netflix – then a DVD postal business – was already the last word in streaming, with nine million users streaming content over the ‘net, and it’s only grown since then. And as 4G enabled video streaming to smartphones on the go, the reach became pervasive. The 2018 Internet Phenomena Report from Sandvine showed that Netflix consumed 15% of the global internet bandwidth sending HD content around the world.

Of course, Netflix isn’t the only streaming service standing as we flip the calendar over to 2020. It’s now joined by more macro- and micro-services than we can count. Research from the Swinburne University of Technology found that Aussie consumers have seven major heavyweight streaming services to contend with. Telsyte meanwhile found that 43% of Australian households currently have at least one streaming service in the home.

Streaming moved from the movie and TV industry onto music with its disruptive effects changing the way artists release music for their fans. Mixtapes now reign supreme as so-called “album-artists” are left grappling with a medium not suited to their style of release. Curiously, the 2010s brought with it the rise of streaming, the death of the compact disc and the resurgence of vinyl as one of the primary consumption methods for music, going to show that the classics never really die.

Sports have also been affected by the scale of change brought forth by the 2010s. When we gazed forward at the miraculous 2020s way back at the start of the decade, we imagined a future of entertainment that was very different to what eventually materialised.

In 2010, for example, we heralded the arrival of the 3D HD television. With several pairs of proprietary glasses bundled with every set, sports fans crowded around to watch sports broadcasts leap out of the TV and into the living room. Literally.

Sports broadcasters in Australia and around the world experimented with 3D broadcasts, with golf; ice hockey, and even extreme sports. Australian broadcasters sent the State of Origin 3D in 2010, as well as the FIFA World Cup with promises of additional content to follow.

But as 3D TV sales flagged, viewership fell and the cost of licensing additional channel spectrum added up, the eye-popping experiment was abandoned in favour of the content wars. Sports channels are now carved up and offered to users on a subscription basis so that viewers can get the best of exactly what they want.

Offerings like Kayo and even our Live Pass channels mean that fans can get closer to the action than ever before with high-resolution streams dripping with data at a much lower cost. And thanks to the proliferation of fast 4G and even 5G networks from Telstra, you can see your favourite team in more places than ever.

Innovations in technology such as the commoditisation of the smartphone and the dramatic reduction the cost of sensor gear means that sport is more high-tech than ever. Cricket now comes with cameras and sensors that map every angle of a ground; soccer comes with goal-line technology for pinpoint accurate scoring; the NFL comes with an array of gadgets designed to improve the flow of play.

The future of sport is looking bright thanks to our 5G network, too. We’re currently developing a VR sports experience that can transport multiple users (able to interact with each other) inside a live sports event. Live entertainment experiences can also benefit from 5G thanks to real-time augmented reality services for fans. Imagine an AFL game where the crowd can track their favourite athletes and get the stats and trivia that sports fans thrive on, live through a mixed reality experience.

Green traffic light
IoT | Tech and Innovation |

Getting more green lights with 4G

By Todd Essery December 20, 2019

Don’t you hate it when you see a green light coming up that starts to turn orange just as you approach? What if there were intelligent traffic lights that communicated with your vehicle via 4G to make traffic flow more efficiently through a busy road network? That’s what we’ve tested as part of a new technology trial in South Australia.

It’s called V2I, or Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communications. At several real-world intersections in South Australia, we’ve enabled vehicles connected to our 4G network to support new V2I applications designed to make traffic flow smoothly.

Selected traffic light test locations in South Australia

Using virtual roadside units for V2I

We’ve worked with Cohda Wireless, JYW Consulting and the South Australian Government’s Future Mobility Lab Fund, which aims to encourage and stimulate developments in connected and autonomous vehicles, and position South Australia at the forefront of these emerging technologies.

Instead of having to deploy short-range radio hardware at every single traffic light intersection, we instead made use of our existing leading 4G network to keep implementation costs low and enable faster deployment of V2I applications across the road network.

Traffic lights today are typically connected to a central traffic light management platform but use a local controller built on timers and local in-ground sensors to help manage the flow of traffic through an intersection. What this new trial achieves is the ability of an approaching vehicle to receive and send messages via our 4G network directly into any set of traffic lights connected to the traffic light management platform.

We achieved this by developing virtual roadside units (Virtual-RSUs) in software that interact with the vehicle and the traffic light management platform. Just like hardware roadside units, the Virtual-RSUs broadcast intersection geometry information messages and traffic light signal phase and timing messages, but do this via 4G instead of short-range radio. The Virtual-RSUs accesses traffic light information via a new component developed in the trial called the SCATS SPaT Engine (SSE), which generates signal phase and timing messages based on live information from the centralised traffic light management platform.

What we can do with V2I

Using 4G and cloud platforms, traffic light timing and intersection mapping information, can be sent to V2I connected vehicles based on their position – without the need for new hardware on the traffic lights themselves. With this new capability, our consortium trialled four new V2I applications in Adelaide, South Australia at several selected intersections.

Freight signal priority (green light extension)

Using connected test vehicles, we tested an application called freight signal priority which allows heavy freight vehicles to request the extension of an active green light, to allow them to get through the intersection without stopping. The goal is a reduction in the number of times a heavy vehicle needs to stop at traffic lights with the aim of improving traffic flow at the intersection and reducing fuel use and trip time for heavy vehicles.

Similarly, public transit vehicles would also be granted priority through these smart intersections. If priority is granted, a green light extension will be issued by the central traffic light management centre to the local traffic light. During the trial we also tested that when the vehicle stops in a prescribed bus stop, any pending or granted priority requests for traffic lights up ahead are cancelled.

Trial vehicle executing tests

The technology can also allow emergency vehicles to travel through intersections more smoothly. It allows emergency service responders to extend a green light, or even override the traffic lights and force them to green on their approach.

Finally, we tested an application that can help connected passenger vehicles get a smoother “run” of green lights to improve their flow and reduce congestion in busy areas. While making no changes to the intersection traffic light timings, the system instead provides advisory information to connected vehicles, in the form of a suggested optimal speed to enable them to catch the green light at the next intersection. On approach to an intersection, vehicles are sent the timing of the traffic lights over the 4G network allowing the vehicle to modify its speed so that it optimally arrives at the intersection as the light in the direction of travel is green.

These V2I applications are part of a greater Co-operative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS) approach, which also includes Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) for safety applications. The 4G link used in the trial is also useful for other Network-to-Vehicle (N2V) communications – for instance, to communicate a bad road surface, weather or other information to distant vehicles and so that they might choose to re-route and avoid the area.

This suite of Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technologies – including a recent trial we completed with Lexus – is preparing the Australian road network for our eventual self-driving future. But between now and then, we’re working hard to ensure that the benefits of smart infrastructure help all road users have a smoother journey.

Abbreviations key

C-ITS – Cooperative Intelligent Transport System

N2V – Network to Vehicle

RSU – Road Side Unit

SCATS – Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System

SPaT – Signal Phase and Timing

SSE – SCATS SPaT Engine

V2I – Vehicle to Infrastructure

V2P – Vehicle to Pedestrian

V2V – Vehicle to Vehicle

V2X – Vehicle to Everything