Network |

Walhalla rising: revisiting a changed and connected town

By Luke Hopewell September 17, 2020

Through our long-running participation with the Mobile Black Spot Program, we’ve brought coverage to remote communities all over the country. As we roll out our 700th Mobile Black Spot, we revisit Walhalla, the site of our 600th, to see how life has changed. From a mobile phone blackspot in the heart of the mountains, Walhalla now resembles the remote village of the future.

Welcome to Walhalla

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, Walhalla was once home to 4000 people during the height of the Victorian gold rush era – not long after the town itself was founded in 1862. The Walhalla Goldfields Railway has survived since then, and memories of the past remain with ghost tours a popular attraction for tourists.

We brought our 600th site in the Mobile Black Spot program to the town in mid-2019. With just 20 permanent residents living in Walhalla today, our commitment shows that we’re not about to leave any Aussie out of the thriving digital economy.

One of those residents is Councillor Michael Leaney: local politician and owner of the Star Hotel in Walhalla. He tells us that 4G in Walhalla has changed the way the town does business.

 

Growing digital businesses

At a fundamental level, 4G mobile coverage in the town enables things that you and I take for granted. Things like being able to text someone when you’ve left something off their shopping list. After all, the closest supermarket is over 45-minutes away by car.

It also allows residents to take care of issues themselves, as everyone now has connectivity in their pocket, Michael explains.

The residents can also now call 000 in an emergency, and stay informed during a potential disaster, such as the recent bushfire season.

Michael tells me that this year, the fires were 70km from Walhalla. Not as close as they have been before, he adds, but every year before now they’d had to listen to the radio for bulletins and guess how close the flames were. Now, the residents are better informed, and as a result, better prepared.

“World War III could have broken out before we had 4G, and we wouldn’t have known! But now we can find out,” Michael jokes.

Beyond basic safety, though, Walhalla can now grow its local businesses in ways it couldn’t before thanks to fast, affordable and reliable 4G connectivity.

Visitors to Michael’s business – Walhalla’s Star Hotel – would always complain on TripAdvisor about the quality of the Wi-Fi, but until 4G came along, Michael couldn’t do anything to fix it.

“People online in reviews would say it was a lovely place, but with crap Wi-Fi. We’d put a sign in our foyer saying we didn’t have capacity to make it better. The instant 4G was installed, however, we were able to upgrade our Wi-Fi and enjoy upgraded phone services and instantly it was fixed. One minute they were complaining, the next it just stops!”

Michael has leant into the technology at Walhalla’s Star Hotel, upgrading the reservation system, payment terminals and even the security camera system which can record footage into the cloud and alert him when objects are detected outside at night. That’s a feature he’s had to turn off, however, as the wallabies kept tripping the alarms.

Connectivity that other businesses would take for granted – like the ability to SMS your customers – has made Michael’s life easier.

Michael has noticed changes in other businesses, too. The old gold mine that now offers tours to visitors now takes bookings online, rather than just in-person. It also has mobile connectivity so it can interact with its customers in more convenient ways, too.

The scenic railways also has T-Go Boosters along the route to stay connected for the all-important selfie along the way.

Others in town are also getting in on the act as they see the possibilities thanks to better and more affordable connectivity.

Viva virtual tourism

Of course, COVID-19 has changed the way that Walhalla – a small town that thrives on visitors –interacts with the outside world. The global pandemic has had a profound impact on the Walhalla tourism scene. Situated in regional Victoria, the town has been subjected to enhanced restrictions in the wake of the state’s protracted second wave.

But the residents of Walhalla – those who would normally be tipping their hats to tourists and welcoming visitors to their sleepy mountain paradise – are finding ways to stay connected with their fans.

With a dog in tow, Michael will embark on a live streamed walk around Walhalla for the town’s fans on Facebook. All 20,000+ of them, tuning in each broadcast to get a slice of socially-distanced country life.

“It has allowed us to have a relationship with our visitors that we just couldn’t without 4G in the town,” Michael says.

“Back in March we decided to start doing virtual walks. Very simple: we just take our dog out for a walk and we use Facebook Live, just like the Premier! People comment, ask questions, and that would just not be doable if we didn’t have a 4G service. Now we’re getting on each video in the vicinity of 20,000 views.

“On the one hand that’s really sad, we’re just going out for a walk, but at 3pm a cohort of people just get on their treadmill and come with us,” he says.

More for less

And all that connectivity means that Walhalla can now engage with its fans, grow its businesses all while saving money on their bills according to Cr. Michael Leaney.

While growing the business and interacting with virtual visitors in new ways is good, doing it all while saving money is even better.

Michael showed us one of his previous bills, and talks about how he’s getting more than he ever bargained for with less to pay each month.

“The cost of telecommunications and internet have plummeted around here since the tower was turned on. At my hotel here, my monthly bill now is about $105 a month. Previously it was in the vicinity of $400 a month.

“4G data is a hell of a lot faster too – we went from about 11Mbps to around 40Mbps. We’re getting more bang for our buck.”

Our participation in the Mobile Black Spot Program is part of our long and proud history of investment in regional Australia. When the fourth round of the Program is complete, we will have contributed more than $280 million toward securing better connectivity for rural and regional Australia, and will have built over 780 new sites to improve coverage around the country.

We’re proud to switch on our 600th Mobile Black Spot site in Walhalla, and to connect Australia’s largestmobile network in a community that lives and breathes an important part of the nation’s history.

We look forward to bringing coverage to hundreds more small and remote areas across Australia through our participation in the Mobile Black Spot Program.

Tullah Lakeside
Network |

Switching on better, faster coverage for Tasmanians

By Michael Patterson August 20, 2020

As times change, we’re dedicated to keeping more Australians connected to what matters. That’s why we’re thrilled to bring fast and reliable coverage to Tasmania’s west coast with a $5.2 million network upgrade, delivered a whole year ahead of schedule.

The town of Tullah, Tasmania is now enjoying dedicated Telstra mobile coverage for the first time thanks to a new 4GX tower, allowing the peaceful former mining town and its 150 residents to connect with the future.

The towns of Waratah and Savage River are enjoying faster coverage thanks to 4GX upgrades to their mobile towers. Meanwhile, Zeehan and Strahan are also feeling the digital love thanks to upgraded radio transmission links that boost mobile performance.

We’re thrilled to provide the first dedicated Telstra mobile site in Tullah. The upgrades to other nearby towns are also a boon for digital inclusion and productivity for the Apple Isle.

And to boot, the project was completed more than a year ahead of schedule, meaning we’re able to bring the improvements Western Tassie needs sooner than ever.

Tullah lake

The project involved key upgrades and delivery of important infrastructure including a new transmission ring between Launceston and Burnie to boost resilience, new fibre and capacity from Burnie to Queenstown and new radio links into Zeehan, Strahan, Tullah and Waratah to more than double the existing capacity.

This project is about more than just faster mobile speeds though – it’s about building more capacity, reliability and resilience into the network, so that we’ve created a real platform for future growth to cater for increasing demand.

The project was carried out with the Federal Government and it also marks a new, unique partnership with TasNetworks, as we utilise its 42-24 fibre network to boost capacity along Tasmania’s west coast for better east-to-west connectivity.

We can’t wait to see what locals do with the incredible new connectivity now available in the area, to bring the promise of the digital economy to life for these communities.

Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with “Satellite”
Devices | Network | Tech and Innovation |

Internet made easy with the Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with Satellite

By Andrew Stormont August 5, 2020

Getting great internet shouldn’t be difficult, nor should it take an age to get online. That’s why we’re excited to exclusively carry the new Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with Satellite mesh Wi-Fi system for great mobile broadband internet in the home, office or anywhere you get good coverage on the Telstra mobile network.

Fast connections, delivered even faster

Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with “Satellite”

The best part about the Orbi 4GX router is how fast you can get online. Just plug it in, connect and you’re ready to go.

The Orbi is an 802.11ac Wi-Fi modem/router that runs on our mobile network. It can keep up to 30 Wi-Fi devices connected at once, meaning it’s great for your family home, office or smart home.

Because the new Orbi router runs on our awesome 4GX network, in 4GX coverage areas, it will give you access to typical download of 5 to 300Mbps. Actual speeds will, however, vary for reasons like location, distance from base stations, terrain, user numbers, hardware/software configuration, download source and upload destination.

The Orbi provides extended Wi-Fi coverage around the home thanks to the bundled satellite, and includes Wi-Fi 802.11ac for faster high-quality Wi-Fi, ideal for streaming video, and high speed data transfer.

More Wi-Fi in more places

Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with “Satellite”

It’s called the Orbi’s “satellite”, and it uses mesh networking to boost the range of the Wi-Fi network around your home. Thanks to the satellite mesh network, you’ll have up to 280-square metres of Wi-Fi coverage.

And you don’t have to worry about switching between different networks, either: the router and satellite work together to create a single Wi-Fi network, to keep it simple.

That means you can move around a home, an office or confidant, with greater access to the speed you need to get things done and stay entertained and informed.

The Orbi supports high-speed data transfer; up to 4K streaming, and also powers great gaming experiences, and with the power of Telstra’s 4GX network.

Easier control over what matters

Netgear Orbi 4GX Router with “Satellite”

The Orbi 4GX router with Satellite is a great way to be online if you’re someone who wants set-and-forget connectivity. But if you’re looking to take more control of your home internet, Orbi makes it easy.

Following the quick set-up, your settings can be controlled via the Orbi smartphone app for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It allows you to see a list of connected devices, control their individual access to the internet, create a network for guests and more.

It even supports commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to make controlling it even easier.

Netgear also offers a range of safety features compatible with the Orbi 4GX router, including a basic version of the Circle Smart Parenting app. You can also add a subscription, that gives you access to filters, history and access pause functionality for every member of the family. The product comes with a one-month free trial of additional security protection software that defends against online threats.

Availability

The Orbi 4GX router is an incredible mobile broadband solution, and we’re thrilled to be bringing it to our customers from today.

You can get the Orbi 4GX Router with Satellite on these selected plans.

Head into a Telstra Store or see our website for more information.

Things you need to know:

4GX: The Telstra Mobile Network offers 4GX in all capital CBDs and selected suburban and regional areas and is progressively rolling out to more places. In other coverage areas around Australia, you’ll automatically switch to our fastest available 4G or 3G. Check coverage at telstra.com/coverage.

Typical download speeds in 4GX areas are 5 -300Mbps with category 16 devices, 5-200Mbps with category 11 devices, 5-150Mbps with category 9 devices, 2-100Mbps with category 6 devices, and 2-75Mbps with category 4 devices. Outside 4GX areas, you will switch to our fastest available 4G or 3G speeds. Speeds vary for reasons like location, distance from base stations, terrain, user numbers, hardware/software configuration, download source and upload destination.

Network |

Recognition of our commitment to deliver Australia’s best mobile network

By Mike Wright October 13, 2017

The Telstra Mobile Network is known for its extensive coverage and super speeds. It’s the largest mobile network in Australia, covering more than 2.4 million square kilometres and reaching 99.4% of the Australian population, and with our 4GX service Telstra customers have access to one of the world’s fastest mobile networks.

Over the years, numerous mobile network benchmarking surveys have assessed our network performance alongside others in the country to determine Australia’s ‘best’ mobile network or even to compare to other networks globally. Many of these tend to focus on populated metropolitan areas and give little attention to the “mobile” nature of customer usage, which requires service not just where they live but where they travel for work and play as well. In some cases, such surveys also use mobile devices that do not support the highest capabilities of each network tested. Telstra most often wins these surveys, but we don’t believe existing surveys in the industry truly capture the quality, footprint and performance of our network.

Because of this, we made a decision to commission a more comprehensive benchmarking survey that is truly national in scale. Network performance analysts Systemics Group agreed to undertake this survey to provide a fair, independent and fully national view of the coverage and performance of Australia’s mobile networks.

Throughout August and September 2017, Systemics conducted this national benchmark survey of Australia’s three mobile networks – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. They covered a driving distance of over 41,000 kilometres (the equivalent of driving the circumference of the earth!), which is by far the largest mobile survey ever conducted in Australia and one of the largest in the world. They also used the latest device to showcase the best performance of all networks and made over 70,000 calls across the three networks and transferred around 3,000 gigabytes of data.  We engaged them to do work to such an exhaustive level because it is  important to us that our long standing internal network survey metrics remain valid and that we know exactly how our network is performing for all our customers, not just those in cities.

The survey ranked Telstra as the best Australian mobile operator, with Telstra scoring highest nationally overall across the four performance categories of voice, browsing, data speed and video. Telstra received a national score of 59.81, Optus was ranked second with a score of 48.4 and Vodafone achieved the lowest score of 43.89.

In fact, of the 25 mobile networks globally that Systemics has surveyed recently, Telstra is ranked as having the highest score. The report also notes that all three mobile networks in Australia are good quality.

The national result is consistent with Telstra’s own measurements and many other benchmarks showing that Telstra has a clear gap over the two other operators. Our strengths came through clearest on main highways and rural and remote areas, with voice coverage available for more than 99% of the distance driven and 4G data for 90% of the distance driven. This includes thousands of kilometres of these roads not covered by any other operator, translating into 2,150 km more road coverage than Optus and over 5300 km more road coverage than Vodafone on these routes.

We are pleased with this result, as it recognises our commitment to delivering the largest coverage, fastest speeds and the best network across Australia.

But while we welcome this result, we continue to rely on our own network performance testing to continue to maintain our mobile network superiority – and with our investment of more than $1.5 billion into the Networks for the Future program (as part of our incremental investment on networks, digitisation, and customer experience of up to $3 billion), we aim to keep it that way.

Every day we are working to make our mobile service even better. Last month we introduced our most generous data allowances yet and rewarded our customers with 12-month Foxtel Now subscriptions on many of these new plans so they can stream the best entertainment on the go. Early this year we launched the world’s first Gigabit capable network and device with the Nighthawk modem and in August we confirmed that we had extended our 4G coverage to 99 per cent of the Australian population so more of our customers can access a high-speed data service.

We will continue to invest to give our customers the best mobile experience, with Australia’s largest mobile network, great-value plans and extras like AFL and NRL passes included that customers simply won’t find anywhere else.

The full report is available on the Systemics website.

Network |

The next step in the evolution of 4G connectivity

By Mike Wright September 20, 2017

Last month, we announced we had activated Cat M1 technology across our entire 4GX coverage footprint, becoming the first network operator in Australia to offer the technology while accelerating the growth of IoT-based businesses and applications across the country. Our IoT network is easily the largest in Australia and one of the largest in the world.

In another Australian first, we have now completed a live over-the-air Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call over Cat M1. Together with our technology partners, Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson, this live VoLTE call demonstrated that voice can be carried along with data on emerging IoT devices and applications.  This opens up new opportunities for delivering voice services in innovative device form factors and locations with new levels of cost, battery life and use case flexibility.

So how does VoLTE over Cat M1 work? 

When standard voice calls are made on a VoLTE enabled handset, VoLTE works by integrating the call into the 4G data stream.  When it comes to IoT, adding VoLTE to Cat M1 devices means those devices will have the ability to make voice calls to other devices, applications and use cases which could benefit from voice.

This will pave the way for new types of devices, applications and services for both consumers and enterprise.

For example, Telstra recently announced next generation eSIM technology, which allows customers to connect a wearable, like a smartwatch, directly to our mobile network and integrate an existing mobile number. With VoLTE over Cat M1, this could provide opportunities to further leverage the battery saving features of Cat M1 for use in wearables where voice services are required.

By combining voice enabled devices and infrastructure at low cost and in diverse locations in and out of the home, a number of other uses will come from this innovation – particularly if combined with the current explosion in voice recognition and voice enabled devices. From emergency calling panels in lifts to interactions with parking meters, information kiosks, cars or whitegoods, the possible use cases are expansive.

Demonstrating live VoLTE over Cat M1 is the first step to progressing these unique use cases. It is a significant new step in the evolution of how 4G connectivity can be enhanced, and how it enables new applications and services built upon standard network building blocks such as VoLTE.

Keep up with the latest in business and tech innovation at Telstra Vantage in our podcast series.