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Answering your questions on 5G and EME: our new 5G FAQ


Posted on April 18, 2019

4 min read

As 5G accelerates towards the mainstream, and with many stories on 5G and health appearing around the internet, we have updated our 5G and electromagnetic energy (EME) information to bring you an extensive 5G FAQ answering the common questions we have received.

Many of the conversations revolve around the significant benefits of 5G for Australians and how the technology works. In 2018, in conjunction with Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) we launched 5G Explained, covering all the fundamentals of 5G.

Australians have also been asking what the EME levels from 5G will be – and are they safe? What happens when 5G is added to all the existing EME from other mobile technologies?

Answering your questions on 5G

To answer these exact questions, we have been conducting extensive EME testing on all of our mobile technologies – including both the 5G trial network and the new commercial network.

In 2018 we conducted extensive EME testing and analysis on the 5G trial network at Southport on the Gold Coast, and also commenced EME testing on the new 3.5GHz commercial base stations. The test results show EME levels are similar to the existing mobile technologies, and well below the EME safety limits.

As an example, we conducted EME testing on the streets of Southport in the busy pedestrian mall which is close to three mobile base stations and our 5G trial site at the Southport Exchange.

The maximum EME level we measured from all mobile, radio and TV broadcast services was more than 500 times below the safety limits. This is typical of what you would find in many communities.

Further north at Musgrave Hill, we tested the EME levels opposite a new 5G base station and the maximum EME level (again at busy times during the day) was more than 700 times below the safety limits.

To test the EME levels on 5G, we had the eSports gaming trial running and loaded up the 5G network with a special test device downloading data to simulate high traffic loads. In November 2018 we presented a summary of the 5G EME testing results to the Science and Wireless Conference, held by the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research (ACEBR) – the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence. We rely on their research material for conducting our health assessments.

The presentation is available online here.

In terms of 5G and health, scientific experts from the ACEBR have also published a new 5G Wireless Technology Fact Sheet covering the latest on EME research and safety. A key question they cover is:

What do we know about 5G and health?

Extensive research has been conducted on the 5G frequencies soon to be introduced, including specifically on mobile phone applications. For future 5G frequencies, there has been extensive research on other applications using these frequencies (for example, radar and military applications) which have been using these frequencies for many decades at power levels far higher than those used in mobile telecommunications. No indication of any health impacts from exposures at the intensities related to mobile communications have been observed. (ACEBR Wireless technologies fact sheet 2018)

With so much information on EME and health available online it’s completely understandable when people say ‘we just don’t know who to believe’.

This is why at Telstra we rely on the expert advice of a number of national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Commission for Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for overall assessments relating to health and safety.

We make sure all of our base stations, including the 5G base stations, are designed to ensure they comply with the stringent EME safety standards, and we publish the compliance certificates and EME reports for each base station on the Radiofrequency National Site Archive.

We are continuing the 5G EME testing program throughout 2019, and will publish updates during the year.

Tags: 5g, EME,

What we need to get right as 5G dawns


Posted on April 9, 2019

3 min read

In just nine short months, we will find ourselves at the dawn of the 2020s. We’re already at the dawn of 5G and the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution. But to succeed in these times of great change Australia needs policy settings that are well crafted, support competition, encourage investment and protect customers, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn told the CommsDay Summit in Sydney today.

Mr Penn told Summit delegates telecommunications were fast becoming the most critical category of infrastructure in the world today. He said all telecommunications technologies – mobile and fixed, 4G and 5G, fibre and copper, HFC and fixed wireless, satellite and radio – had a role to play in meeting the huge growth in demand for coverage, capacity and speed.

Also critical was having the right policy setting in place to promote innovation and investment, he said.

“We absolutely need the right policy settings to promote investment, innovation, competition, safety and security and most importantly to protect customers and ensure digital inclusion,” Mr Penn said.

“High-quality telecommunications networks require an incredible amount of capital investment. There is no point in application developers or managed services providers investing in great products and services if network providers do not have the incentive to invest.

“Capital as a percentage of sales in the industry has been gradually creeping up globally over the last 15 years as the industry copes with the insatiable demand for more data, speed, coverage and resiliency. It is estimated that globally the mobile industry will invest almost half a trillion dollars between 2018 and 2020 on just preparing for and rolling out 5G.”

Mr Penn said the telecommunications industry has spent more than $36 billion on capex over the last three years but the return on that investment was dropping. He said recent PwC research found the return on invested capital had dropped from 12% in 2012 to just 7% in 2016.

“The NBN has obviously been a big contributor to this investment, but in fact more than half of it is actually coming from operators such as Telstra. We will invest in the order of $4bn alone this year,” Mr Penn said.

“However, at the same time capex is increasing, returns in the industry on that capex are reducing. This is unsustainable, as ultimately it will hurt investment capacity within the industry and lead to a degradation in the quality of networks.”

Mr Penn said the dawn of 5G meant a completely different scale of connectivity and this made it an important inflection point for the sector as the challenges, opportunities and complexities became increasingly clear, not just for industry but for government and regulators.

“With telecommunications becoming the world’s most important infrastructure there is a lot we need to get right in making sure our policies and regulations are well crafted, support competition, encourage investment and protect customers,” Mr Penn said.

“Done badly, even where policy has consumers’ best interests at heart, it is the consumers who suffer the most through higher costs and less responsiveness to their changing needs.

“Done well however, I believe we have an incredibly exciting future ahead, and we all have a role to play. And together I am certain we will deliver for the benefit of all Australians.”

You can read CEO Andrew Penn’s keynote address to the CommsDay Summit 2019 here.

Tags: 5g, networks,

5G’s killer app? It’s bigger than that


Posted on April 5, 2019

5 min read

I just spent a week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where virtually all of the conversation was focussed on 5G. 100,000 delegates had come from 200 countries and much of the talk around the corridors was on what 5G’s ‘killer app’ might be once it begins to reach the mainstream later this year.

It is a reasonable question, but one that I think misses the point because 5G will not have a single ‘killer app’ – it is much bigger than that. Just how much bigger we will start to learn when we put the technology into the hands of customers because that is when the 5G innovation floodgates will open.

The naming convention with 5G might be familiar but the experience (and the implications) will be anything but because 5G’s next-level speed, capacity, reliability and latency will change everything. To get your head around why 5G is so different it is useful to have a sense for how networks have evolved over the last few decades.

The first-generation – 1G – in the ’80s was basic voice on an analogue network. It was not always reliable and the 10Kbps transfer speeds were pretty sedate by today’s standards, but that did not stop it from taking off. 2G came next where talk was combined with text messaging. 3G linked wireless connectivity with digital networks and suddenly the then-miracle of being able to access the internet on your mobile phone became possible. 4G then took it a step further with higher speeds, lower latency and the ability to watch video on the go.

When you look at that journey from 1G to 4G you quickly realise the main game was about speed. Of course, 5G delivers powerful speed (potentially 10 times more than 4G) but 5G is so much more than just faster speeds. 5G’s incredible advances in capacity (important, because current networks will not be able to keep up as the demand for connectivity goes through the roof), reliability and latency are revolutionary on their own – but when you combine them with advances in a host of other new technologies (the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual and augment reality, robotics, cloud, edge computing and software-defined networks) you quickly realise this is a paradigm shift and much, much more than a faster smartphone.

As I saw at MWC, so much work is underway right now to bring a 5G future to life:

  • Work to create a connected, seamless experience across multiple device types and settings, from the home to the roads to the workplace to world of entertainment and learning.
  • Work to build transport and supply chain systems that are managed and synchronised to the real time movement of vehicles and passengers.
  • Work to use sensors to gather geographically-precise data in real time to better monitor livestock and crops based on exact and local weather patterns, soil moisture and nutrients.
  • Work to build fleets of drones that could be used for deliveries, searches, rescues or to provide high-quality live video for news or surveillance.
  • Work to use virtual or augmented reality to create a next-generation, live-time experience for sports fans or to bring remote telemedicine to life. In this I admit there were times at MWC when it seemed I was the only one not wearing a VR headset!
  • Work to automate manufacturing and supply chain management and use AI to collect and process data and robotics to perform repetitive tasks and drive new efficiencies and productivity.

What is just as relevant in any conversation about 5G though is that there are many uses we have not yet imagined. That is actually one of the most exciting parts, because if one thing has characterised the convergence between technology and telecommunications, it is that time and again we have been surprised by the innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurialism that it stimulates.

There is no doubt 5G – closely coupled with the other technologies reaching maturity at the same time – will take that to a new level, and that is why I cannot wait to get more 5G devices into customers hands.

Through all of this, networks remain absolutely central and it was great to visit MWC knowing Telstra is 5G-ready and in many ways leading the world. We already have more than 200 5G towers operational across Australia. We have also developed deep domain expertise and first mover advantage.

As a network operator, what is exciting for us in planning and building a 5G-enabled network is that we know the future will be super-connected, super-intelligent and super disruptive to every business model. As a retail provider, our job is to stay at the cutting edge of that so that our customers can too.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from MWC was that we are nowhere near knowing all the possibilities 5G will create but we do know they are coming. How? Because we saw it with every previous generation of wireless network. It is easy to argue 2G’s ‘killer app’ was text messaging, 3G’s internet connectivity, and on 4G the most important use case was probably video, which went from nothing on earlier generations of wireless networks to making up the majority of traffic on 4G.

Nobody knows for sure how this will play out with 5G, but we do know that sooner or later (and in many different ways), innovators and entrepreneurs will find a way to tie together extremely high speeds, high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, and leverage that into unanticipated new applications, services and capabilities.

Unlike the Gs 1-4, 5G will not have a single ‘killer app’ – it is too big, and too transformative for that – but it will completely transform the role of technology and telecommunications in the world, and unleash a new wave of innovation once we have put it into the hands of customers – that truly does fire the imagination.

Tags: 5g, mwc, MWC 2019,

Growing the entrepreneurial spirit, in Australia and worldwide

Tech and Innovation

Posted on March 28, 2019

3 min read

I’m sure I won’t have a hard time convincing you of the value of entrepreneurialism. This spirit is what drives people to open a new business, to innovate and invent new technology, and invest in those willing to try.

But while we might agree on the incredibly high value of this spirit, we might disagree on the current state of things in Australia and what, if anything, we should do about it.

One of the measures of the future health of our business environment is the quantity and quality of new businesses started each year. On this front, Australia is performing well. When it comes to the rate of technology innovation, though, Australia is not performing nearly as well as it could. According to the 2018 Global Innovation Index, we rank 20th in the world – not a bad result, but we are not as successful as we could be.

What is really interesting is that this report shows we rank 11th in the world when looking at the inputs for innovation – such as the average number of years young people receive formal education, easy access to credit, and a high level of government services being available online – but we rank 31st when looking at outputs like the value of our patents, creation of new goods and services, and our foreign investment outflow.

Clearly something is not working the way it should.

Where were you when the dot-com bubble burst?

It’s almost 20 years since that rise and fall of many companies and the entrepreneurs behind them. While a very small number of people who invested heavily in tech stocks managed to get through that period with their finances intact, the most common outcome was lots of money burned.

Twenty years later the NASDAQ has climbed to all-time highs and is now at over 7,500. Sure the bubble burst, but many technology firms in the US have grown and many new ones have been established. In fact, many of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time were made better by the experience.

For example, Jeff Bezos opened an online bookstore in 1994. It was a disruptive move to take on a saturated market. His often-repeated mantra about being obsessed with providing the best possible customer experience, irrespective of what Amazon was selling and where it was selling it, enabled him to ride out the dot-com bust and build a company that, in 2018, had more than US$232 billion in revenue.

In Australia, the dot com boom gave rise to some serious success stories. REA Group listed on the ASX in December 1999 at $1.11 per share. Today you’d be paying close to $80 per share. was founded in 1997. It listed on the ASX twelve years later and today has a market cap of over $3 billion. And other businesses like Wotif,, Seek and others have achieved sustainable long-term growth. However, their success has had nowhere near the impact on the Australian economy as technology companies have had in the US.

Tags: 5g, innovation, IoT,

Switching on our 10,000th mobile network site in Toowoomba

Network 5G

Posted on March 19, 2019

3 min read

We turned on our 10,000th mobile network site today in Toowoomba, Queensland. The site will not only provide better coverage to our customers in the area but it is also a milestone achievement for us; one that represents our commitment to offer connectivity to as many Australians as possible.

Telstra – then Telecom – launched 1G in Sydney back in 1987 with just 14 base stations. Today, the Telstra Mobile Network covers more than 2.5 million square kilometres – vastly more than any other mobile network in Australia – and offers coverage to 99.5 per cent of the Australian population.

We have come a long way.

Not only is our network getting bigger, it is getting faster and smarter. The new base station in Toowoomba includes the very latest technology as part of our 5G program.

We’ve been able to successfully connect the LG V50 ThinQ to our 5G network.

Since passing 200 5G-enabled sites at the end of last year, our roll-out of 5G has continued in the major city CBDs with the plans to extend to a 2-kilometre radius of coverage from each city centre.

Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth CBD roll-outs are already well progressed, as are Launceston and Hobart, and we are in the process of extending coverage in the CBDs of Sydney (including some coverage in Parramatta CBD) and Melbourne as we work towards the launch of our first 5G mobile devices.

Toowoomba has been at the heart of this – as the first regional centre where we introduced 5G capability. Indeed, with more than 100 5G mobile sties now installed in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Toowoomba – and with the region playing host to our 5G Innovation Centre (where a number of 5G world firsts were achieved) as well as our first 5G customer trial – Queensland could be considered the 5G capital of the world.

Our network coverage milestones

1987: Telecom, now Telstra, launches 1G (AMPS) in Sydney and Melbourne.
1993: Telstra launches 2G.
2006: Telstra launches 3G.
2010: Telstra connects its 7000th base station.
2011: Telstra is the first operator in Australia to commercially launch 4G LTE.
2012: Telstra switches on its 1000th 4G site.
2013: Telstra’s 4G coverage reaches more than 85% of the Australian population, including 300 regional towns.
2015: Telstra’s mobile network coverage passes 2.4 million square kilometres, reaching 94% of the Australian population.
2017: Telstra’s 4G coverage extends to 99% of the Australian population and more than 1.4 million square kilometres. It is also announced that Cat M1 compatibility across the entire 4GX footprint has been switched on.
2018: Telstra Mobile Network coverage passes more than 2.5 million square kilometres. 4GX is made available to over 99% of the Australian population and Telstra commences its 5G roll-out, with over 200 5G-enabled mobile sites completed by 31 December 2018.
2019: Telstra connects its 10,000th mobile network site.

Tags: 5g, networks,