Network | Regional |

We’re investing hundreds of millions to extend and enhance our regional, rural and remote coverage

By Andrew Penn May 6, 2021

Incredible connectivity has the potential to transform a nation, but these dreams can only be realised if everyone can join in.

I wanted to tell you about a major initiative we are launching to bring even better connectivity to those who rely on it in rural and regional areas.

Improving our regional and rural networks

As 3G ticks over to 4G and into 5G; or as copper ADSL transforms into fibre, satellite or mobile internet, we’re always finding new solutions to solve old problems.

New technology will help us realise the goal of becoming a world-leading digital economy, and we need to make sure everyone can participate. That’s why we have a new funding program to improve our network for regional, rural and remote customers.

Over the next four years, we will lead a co-investment fund aimed at enhancing and extending mobile coverage in rural and regional areas. We plan to stimulate infrastructure co-investment with governments, local councils and businesses in areas that would otherwise be difficult to justify on economic grounds.

We’ve done this before, and had great success in the last few years, investing over $120 million ourselves in such projects in regional, rural and remote Australia. That’s why we’re doing it again.

We will also be investing a further $150 million over the next 12 months to improve networks in regional, rural and remote Australia. We will be boosting coverage at popular destination spots; funding capacity upgrades; ensuring that 3G-only sites have access to 4G; building new 4G sites, and developing technology for long-range sites with small cells and satellite backhaul.

The $200 million co-investment fund, paired with our additional $150 million, is backed up by and in addition to a number of projects we have recently been awarded by the Federal Government.

We will be working with the Federal Government through their Regional Connectivity Program to help power $55 million-worth of network upgrades, and we are the only major mobile provider to both win projects and commit funding to improve services.

Pair that with our participation in the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, where we have put up more than double the capital investment of the rest of the industry put together to build more than two thirds of the mobile black spot towers in the program.

Our regional legacy

We have a longstanding commitment to provide connectivity to regional, rural and remote areas. In these areas, Telstra is more than just another telco: it’s often the only telco. That is a big responsibility, and one we take seriously.

We have spent years hauling equipment across this wide brown land, building mobile towers; exchanges, and more to connect even the most far-flung Australians to the rest of the world.

Our commitment to regional areas is about more than just giving people a good network to stream movies on. With the pandemic driving a massive surge in online services – especially from the government – it’s about making sure everyone can benefit and thrive in the new digital age.

In 2021, it is more important than ever to keep our customers at the heart of everything we do – especially when it comes to connectivity.

Network |

The year ahead for regional connectivity: how we’re improving mobile connectivity and coverage in Regional Australia

By Nikos Katinakis May 4, 2021

When you’re out bush, having the right gear is vital. That includes strong communications, backed by Australia’s best network, so that whether you’re running around or running a business, you can stay connected. We’ve announced funding for a number of projects for regional Australia that will continue to bring coverage to even the most far-flung areas.

In the last 12 months, connectivity has become more than just a nice-to-have for your social media and entertainment streaming needs. It’s a must-have. It’s essential for participating in the digital economy, healthcare, education and more.

Following a blistering shift to online services, we need to ensure that nobody gets left behind. That’s why we’re investing millions to bring regional and remote communities into the connected fold.

As part of the Federal Government’s Regional Connectivity Program, we’ll be delivering 30 new projects into regional and remote Australia at a cost of $54 million in joint funding. These projects include everything from new towers to improved high-speed broadband services.

By the numbers, we’re investing almost $16 million, together with $26 million from the Australian Government and over $13 million from state and local governments to help improve connectivity and communications around regional and remote Australian communities.

Over the next few years as part of the Regional Connectivity Program, we’ll be running upgrade projects in:

New South Wales:

  • Tooma
  • Mossgiel
  • Oxley

Northern Territory:

  • Arnhem

Queensland:

  • Lake Moondarra
  • Mornington Island
  • Dajarra
  • Aurukun

South Australia:

  • Far North South Australia region
  • Ernabella

Tasmania:

  • King Island
  • Tasmanian schools
  • Jericho

Victoria:

  • Eastern Victoria region
  • Toongabbie
  • Broughton
  • Lascelles
  • Halls Gap East
  • Cabbage Tree Creek
  • Gipsy Point
  • Kobyboyn
  • Gazette

Western Australia:

  • Bidyadanga
  • Coral Bay
  • Caiguna
  • Cocklebiddy
  • Condingup
  • Cave Point Lighthouse
  • Cygnet Bay
  • Greenbushes-Boyup

Improving connectivity in regional and remote Australia is challenging and expensive, so it’s great to have the support of local, state and the Federal government to make the experience better for everyone.

We’ve got the largest network in Australia, with over 10,700 mobile base stations that cover over 2.5 million square kilometres. That’s 99.5 per cent of the Australian population, and in many parts of the country, we’re the only game in town.

Along with our work as part of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot program and our own announcements this week that see us add $150 million over the next 12 months, followed by a $200 million co-investment fund to develop regional connectivity, we’re excited to bring more communities into the 21st century with a network that is second-to-none .

Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
Network |

We’re investing $277m in spectrum to make our 5G network stronger and faster

By Andrew Penn April 23, 2021

You may have read that Telstra is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new spectrum for 5G. But what does this all mean?

The Australian Communication and Media Authority (or ACMA) today announced the results of its 26 GHz mobile spectrum auction, including that Telstra has secured 1000MHz of this spectrum to help us make our 5G network stronger and faster.

We’re spending around $277 million for our slice of this new mmWave spectrum to be used on the next phase of our 5G network which will deliver even faster speeds and much greater capacity. Much like there was with 4G, reaching the full potential with 5G involves rolling out the network in multiple phases. Initially, we’ve focused on coverage, launching 5G to as many people as possible as fast as possible, with our 5G network already reaching almost two thirds of Australians and will reach 75% by the end of June. But this is just the start of the journey and with the addition of mmWave spectrum to our 5G you’ll really start to see its full potential.

What is mmWave and why do we need it?

Each year we see data usage across our mobile network increase by an average of 40%. With more devices and more things that use more data, like 4K video streaming and virtual reality, we need more bandwidth so that you can still video chat to mum at a packed New Year’s event without a hitch.

mmWave – pronounced as “millimetre wave” – is a short-range, high-frequency and very high capacity spectrum band that really makes the most of what 5G can do.

It got its catchy name from the type of frequency it uses – which is what your phone uses to talk to mobile base stations to make calls, send texts and keep your data running fast and smooth. mmWave’s higher frequency means it can offer a lot of capacity and bandwidth, however it can only broadcast a few hundred metres. This makes it best suited to areas where there are lots of people in close proximity consuming data at a rate that can sometimes strain a network. This means places like shopping centres, crowded inner-city train stations and even stadiums could all benefit from the capabilities of mmWave.

There’s a whole lot more to mmWave and if you find all this techy stuff interesting, then you’ll also like this deeper dive piece we wrote to explain it further.

What will the new spectrum mean?

We mention capacity, because this is where our new 1000 MHz of spectrum comes in. This is more than 10x our existing dedicated 5G spectrum bandwidth. Having access to more spectrum creates more space on our network for mobile traffic, which means more data can flow through smoothly to more customers. The more spectrum you have, the more capacity for data your network has too.

Think of having more spectrum like being stuck in traffic in peak hour on the way to work and then having an extra 10 lanes added, allowing more cars to join the highway and travel faster. Having more spectrum for mmWave will let more 5G phones or 5G home broadband connections on the network to simultaneously download at higher speeds than ever on our network.

Having additional 5G spectrum also means that in the future our 5G home broadband service will be available to more customers in more places so you can binge the latest episode of The Mandalorian in 4K; or have multiple people at home on HD calls, without degrading quality.

For certain areas where the nbn might not be delivering a great experience, we’re really excited about the possibilities this opens to give our customers a fast and reliable home internet connection.

If you want to look even further into the future, mmWave will become central to things such as driverless cars or even some crazy ideas like watching the footy at the MCG with augmented reality glasses that can overlay all the stats and information you might be interested in. It opens up a whole new world for groundbreaking technology that is only going to boom and improve our lives going forward.

When will mmWave launch on Telstra?

While the licenses won’t come into effect until around the middle of the year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has agreed to early access licensing, which will allow us to use the spectrum on our network even sooner.

However, mmWave is something we’ve been preparing for and been testing for a while now. This real-world testing has helped us understand how the technology works and interacts with the environment and has also assisted in the development of the standards that device manufacturers use to build and deploy their future mmWave capable products.

We’re working to bring more mmWave-capable devices to our customers this calendar year, adding to our first mmWave-capable device – the Telstra 5G WiFi Pro – which launched in May 2020.

Telstra has been leading the way in 5G for a long time, and our work to date means we’ll already be on the front foot when we’re able to access this spectrum and as devices become available. Our commitment to bring the latest mobile technology and its benefits to more Australians is stronger than ever and we can’t wait for you to experience this next evolution of our 5G technology.

Man on mobile phone and working on his laptop computer
Network |

3G is closing, but it’s not going anywhere until June 2024

By Nikos Katinakis April 15, 2021

In October 2019 we announced our 3G network would close in June 2024. A lot has happened since our October 2019 announcement.

It’s a big step in the evolution of our mobile network, and although it’s still more than three years away, we have heard some concerns about how we can all be best prepared for the transition off 3G. We’ve got some answers to the questions we’ve been hearing.

What will coverage be like after the 3G shutdown?

We are continuing planning and upgrades of our mobile network and new 4G coverage will be similar in size and reach as pre-existing 3G coverage.

As we complete these upgrades, you may notice some changes to the signal bars on your phone. But remember: fewer bars doesn’t mean less service.

Additionally, we are working to repurpose the spectrum that is used for our 3G services and reallocate it to 5G to meet future data needs.

What do you have to do for the 3G shutdown?

With more than three years until the eventual closure of 3G there is plenty of time to be prepared.

For many customers there won’t be anything to worry about. Most modern phones have both 3G and 4G capability. This means your phone will continue to work on our 4G band as before.

However, if you are still using a 3G only device, (or 4G device without VoLTE capability) you may wish to consider an upgrade between now and 2024 to a 4G VoLTE device or a 5G capable device.

Changing phones doesn’t need to break the bank, and it’s more than likely you’ll need to upgrade within the next three years anyway. Switching from 3G to 4G provides a noticeable improvement in your download speeds and call quality/reliability, also. We have a full list of compatible phones on Telstra.com.

What if I’m an enterprise, government agency or agribusiness customer?

For our agribusiness and enterprise customers, being prepared for the 3G closure may be different. There are a myriad of devices from sensors, to EFTPOS and M2M devices that work only on 3G .

Many device manufacturers have already started to progressively upgrade their products to be 4Gcompatible. If you haven’t already, start speaking with us or your product manufacturer to see what is available.

There’s still plenty of time, and we’ll work with you around any concerns you have about changing devices or technology types to be ready for the 3G closure.

You can find more information on our 3G shutdown on Telstra.com, which goes into further detail about the closure. We’re also working to demystify regional coverage questions, how our mobile network functions, and what those bars on your phone mean and why they change when you move around on Telstra Exchange.

Rest assured, however, that we have been here before, and we have transitioned network technologies before when we closed our 2G network at the end of 2016.

You won’t be left in communications darkness when 3G does eventually close.

We are here to help, and importantly, there is still plenty of time to be ready.

Network |

Your regional mobile coverage questions answered

By Sri Amirthalingam March 31, 2021

You expect that when you pull your phone out of your pocket, you’ll unlock it and immediately be able to place a call, send a text or use the internet. And so long as you’re in a suitable coverage area, that’s how it works, right? As it turns out, there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes to make that possible, especially in regional and rural areas. Here’s how your coverage works, and some tips on how to improve it.

Whether you’re in town or the top sheep paddock wondering where the baa baa black spots are, there are a few things you should know about how network coverage works.

How does the Telstra mobile network operate?

You’re able to do all the amazing things on your phone because of cellular signals beamed out of our base station towers situated around the nation. You can see where this coverage is on our Mobile Coverage Maps.

Those towers operate on a variety of radio frequencies across several key pieces of radio spectrum. It’s easy to think of it as just 3G, 4G and now the amazing 5G, but in actual fact, there are many different radio frequencies we operate on in those Gs to make your phone work.

All of these technologies overlap and interlock to create one Telstra mobile network: a vibrant tapestry of radio signals all working hard to power millions of conversations and billions of interactions between devices every single day.

Does Telstra take mobile coverage away?

No, we do not take away coverage. We have invested billions over the last several decades delivering Australia’s best mobile network, from 1G all the way up to 5G and beyond.

As we grow our mobile network around Australia and upgrade it with the latest technology, we occasionally come to a point where it is necessary to say goodbye to older technology, and to use the spectrum bands it was carried on to boost the performance of newer and more efficient technology.

In December 2016, we switched off our 2G to provide more spectrum for 4G. As part of our program to continually upgrade our network to the latest technology and expand our 4G and 5G coverage, we’ve announced the eventual switch-off of our 3G technology. This will not happen until June 2024 – more than three years away.

We are working towards expanding the 4G technology so its coverage is materially the same as 3G coverage today.

We know maintaining existing coverage is important for our customers and the communities they live in, and visitors to regional areas, so that why we’ve made our 4G coverage commitments.

Will 4G coverage after 3G closure be better than what existed with CDMA and 2G?

Telstra’s 4G coverage is already greater that our 2G coverage and our commitment is for 4G coverage to be similar to our 3G coverage by mid 2024.

As both network and device technologies have progressed significantly from the days of CDMA and 2G customer experiences are better than they have ever been, and their experiences will continue to improve as 4G expansion progresses.

How does the use of different spectrum bands affect coverage?

Spectrum bands vary in terms of how far they travel, and the bandwidth which is available for use by mobile operators. Our 3G technology uses 850MHz spectrum while the primary band for our 4G technology is 700 MHz. Both 700 MHz and 850 MHz are known as ‘low band’ spectrum and they travel further than ‘mid’ and ‘high’ band spectrum.

The propagation of 700 MHz is slightly better than that of 850 MHz, and as 700 MHz will be used for our 4G expansion we do not anticipate there being any material changes in coverage due to the change in spectrum used. Where minor variations in coverage do occur these would likely be at the fringes of our network, and attributable to variations in antenna types, their precise placement and direction and device-specific differences in radio sensitivity.

It is also possible that in transitioning from 3G to 4G there will be locations that may end up with coverage on 4G that they never had with 3G.

How available will 5G be in regional areas?

Our 5G coverage is already available in more than 100 regional towns and this footprint will increase with time. You can check Telstra’s coverage availability for each generation of mobile technology on our website.

What do the bars on my phone mean, and why do they change?

We’ll let you in on a secret right off the bat. Signal bars – the four to five little indicators on your smartphone that show how much signal you have – don’t mean a whole lot these days.

Fewer bars doesn’t indicate less service, and indeed there are no standards for signal bars. The way signal bars are displayed on your device reflects vendor manufacturing decisions, and almost every device is different.

Signal bars also vary between mobile technologies. 4G, for example, is a more advanced technology than 3G, meaning 4G can operate at lower signals. If you notice fewer bars when moving from a 3G area to 4G area this doesn’t mean any coverage has been lost, it’s simply a reflection of the more advanced technology in use. The ability to make, receive and maintain calls and utilise high speed data are the best indicators of network performance. These are the things you should focus on.

How far does a phone work from a base station?

This is a tough one, because it has no fixed answer. As always, it depends on a number of factors.

A lot of it depends on the phone you’re using. All phones differ in the way they pick up signal, and some perform significantly better than others.

We do a range of testing and discuss signal characteristics of new phones before they’re released by manufacturers. The devices that perform best in test are certified as Blue Tick devices, and these are considered the best devices for getting handheld voice coverage in regional and rural areas. It is testing done exclusively by our engineers to perform best on our network, so you won’t find it anywhere else.

The accessories you’re using with your phone can also make a difference. If you have your phone plugged into a powered external antenna, you can expect better results, for example. If you’re using an approved device like a Telstra-Go Repeater, you’ll have better results. Coverage can even depend on how you hold your phone. The rest depends on geography. Where are you standing when you use your phone? Are you in an area where a base station can’t reach like a gully or river bed? Are you indoors or outdoors?

All of these factors and more can contribute to your mobile coverage experience.

How and where are new base stations built?

It takes a significant amount of investment to build a new base station. It’s why the cost of our mobile network is in the billions!

A base station is typically a connection to our broader core network via a super-fast fibre connection. It takes a lot for us to run the fibre to each individual base station and connect it to the rest of our network, which is why these costs can be considerable.

It’s not always as simple as building a huge base station on top of the biggest hills in the country. Not only is it not feasible, we need to get access to land, fibre and power for the site.

We also need to consider where the majority of the base station’s users are going to be situated, and how the coverage will fan out over the geography of the area.

Aside from building new towers, we also do a considerable amount of work maintaining, improving and upgrading our existing base stations. From planned upgrades to add 5G to an area, or to apply new software that boosts a tower’s range, we’re always building you a better network.

Should I “lock” my phone’s frequency?

We have heard instances where our customers have been advised to “lock” their phone to a specific frequency that they have successfully connected to in the past. This is where you tell your phone to look for one frequency only, as opposed to taking advantage of the multiple layers of frequency that make up our network.

Doing this can severely degrade your experience on our network, and it’s advised you leave it to Automatic in your settings so your phone can find the best signal available wherever you are.

How can I make my phone work better in my house?

Connecting your smartphone to your home Wi-Fi network is a great way to improve your in-home experience. It’s all thanks to SMS and Voice Over Wi-Fi enabled on our network.

SMS over Wi-Fi means that when your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network that can access the internet, you’ll still be able to receive SMS messages even if your phone can’t connect to our mobile network.

Check out how to get it working on Telstra.com.

You can also look at installing what’s known as a Yagi antenna on your house to improve your reception. We’ve got a whole page dedicated to the different types of external antennae and devices you can use on our website.

I’m on another carrier that uses the Telstra network, how does that affect my coverage?

We have a range of deals in place to provide our mobile network to other carriers as part of a commercial arrangement. However, these arrangements do not make our full suite of network technologies available to these Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

To check what services are available on your carrier, contact your service provider’s customer support.

Why does my phone drop out in the car sometimes?

There are several reasons why a phone call may drop out.

If you’re taking a call on the go and it drops out, it may not be the network. It may be where you have the device situated in the vehicle.

Your phone should always be in a clear spot when you’re making a call. Instead of jamming it deep in your car’s centre console inside what is ostensibly a thick metal box, pop it into a cradle mounted to your window. That way, your phone has the best chance possible of reaching the network and vice versa.

Check the relevant laws in your state about using a smartphone in a cradle while driving before doing so, as in some states you may not be legally allowed to do so.

Coverage extension devices such as a Telstra Go Repeater can improve the coverage you receive in your car, especially in regional areas.