Southern Cross Subsea Cable Network route survey
Business and Enterprise | Network |

Keeping the world online during COVID-19

By Oliver Camplin-Warner May 28, 2020

When COVID-19 sent workers out of their offices and into their homes, people wanted one thing more than masks, gloves and toilet paper – they wanted data, and lots of it. While we’ve been ensuring the health and safety of our team is our top priority, this explosion in demand for data – which has set new records on an almost daily basis – has seen us working around the clock to maintain our international network during this pandemic.

Our international network sees a dizzying amount of traffic on any given day, but the increase in data being sent back-and-forth during COVID-19 is truly massive. Data demands have spiked significantly, seemingly overnight, by up to 50% on our international networks.

The mission

Telstra International works to connect the world to Asia, and Asia to the world. We’re proud to have the largest subsea cable network in the Asia-Pacific region, also spanning the crucial trans-Pacific route to connect the world.

Threading more than 400,000kms under the ocean floor, it circles the world almost 10 times. These connections are submerged beneath the waves, meaning that protecting, maintaining and innovating them is a full-time job for our cross-regional team. We’re always striving for better connectivity via subsea cables.

But when the pandemic hit, we realised that we needed to double down on our mission and ensure our network – which provides crucial connectivity for applications and platforms around the world – stays strong, connected and resilient for not only our customers, but our customers’ customers.

We’ve managed to keep our network alive and thriving thanks to the substantial capacity and headroom we have available to cater for unexpected traffic peaks.

Subsea cable repairs

Staying connected

The sudden and significant spike in traffic has come from several sources – the upticks in use of video for work, play and education, as well as large-scale Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption from companies moving their businesses online.

We found early on that people wanted to stay informed, entertained and even well-educated. Research by cybersecurity firm, Imperva, found that network traffic increased dramatically for news (+64%); retail (+28%); gaming (+28%); education (+17%), and law/government services (+17%). Meanwhile, there was a decrease in network traffic related to sports (-46%); travel (-42%), and automotive (-35%).

Companies rapidly adopting online tools such as Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Office 365 are particularly keen to ensure their connectivity stays strong during this time, and we’re working hard to enable this pivot.

For example, we’ve upgraded WebEx links to data centres as we experience huge increases in the number of virtual meetings taking place. We have seen WebEx traffic grow significantly and globally, while Cisco traffic in March increased by 66% compared to pre-global lockdown.

We’re also splitting traffic to allow direct access to Office 365 and WebEx without clogging up corporate networks that may not have the headroom we do.

We connect 11 of the top 12 technology companies in the Fortune 500 to Asia. As such, we’re continuing to work hard with all of our relevant partners on increasing capacity within their networks to keep up with the demand and deliver data efficiently. We’ll continue this work post-COVID-19 as businesses continue to change the way they work.

Our people are also working hard across the Asia-Pacific region to enable this boost to our connectivity stack. When the pandemic broke out, our first and top priority was the health and wellbeing of our team. As seasoned workers from home, we were able to quickly move to remote working, with those who couldn’t split into A and B-teams across Hong Kong and Singapore, with one team working in the main Network Operations Centre and the second working in a back-up facility to build resilience in our people as well as our network.

Meanwhile, our cable maintenance ships worked with port operators around Asia to ensure they could continue working on our network at sea. We pre-booked hotel rooms in the region to hold crews for 14-days prior to a ship coming in so that they were cleared to board the ship when it was time to changeover. And to keep ships operational, we used supply vessels to replenish stock at sea.

We’re always ready to roll with changing circumstances to keep the world connected.

The demand for data is unlikely to drop, even as restrictions are scaled back around the world. Our networks are already designed to manage a significant increase in traffic with minimal impact on services, which is critical during times like these.

We’ve assessed the utilisation of our network between countries and continents, as different areas respond in different ways to the pandemic, which allows us to implement business continuity planning to ensure we’re keeping the network performing for everyone who needs it.

Unveiling our first 5G device, after a year of network evolution
5G | Network |

We’re the first to enable standalone 5G in Australia

By Nikos Katinakis May 1, 2020

We’ve reached another milestone in delivering the full power of 5G to Australia. Our mobile network is now end-to-end enabled for 5G Standalone (5G SA), increasing efficiency and enabling new and innovative uses for mobile technology at the same time. 

This upgrade means that 5G Standalone capable devices will be able to operate purely in 5G mode, without the support of underlying 4G technology as occurs today. We’re also underway with our early testing of the first of these devices, which should become available to our customers from late 2020. 

Standalone 5G uses the 5G network for data transfer just like our existing non-standalone 5G, but also uses 5G for the signalling communication between device and base station. That communication happening over 5G means many more devices can communicate simultaneously, at higher speeds, and in many more complex ways than 4G can. We’re the first telco in Australia to enable Standalone 5G across our network, and one of the first in the world. 

As is often the case with our mobile networks, the work to switch on Standalone 5G has mostly happened behind the scenes, but it has been a mammoth task. Working together with our technology partner Ericsson, we’ve enabled new 5G service-based architecture, upgrading our 5G radio network coverage footprint across Australia with a Cloud Native 5G Core Network to handle this standalone traffic. 

The largest and most transformational benefits of 5G – ultra-reliable low latency, much higher capacity, massive machine type communications and advanced functions like network slicing where we can optimise portions of our network for specific customers’ needs – are only possible with Standalone 5G. 

5G Standalone brings with it capabilities that will allow us to deliver a range of new services delivering the right connectivity, capacity and speed for individual applications. The end-to-end network is effectively “sliced” according to the requirements (connectivity, capacity and speed) of the application.  

This milestone is a big one for those reasons, but we’ll also continue to evolve the capability of 5G as the technology itself develops so we can bring the latest advantages of 5G to our customers. 

We’re already talking with some of our partners to see what they can do with this new upgrade to 5G. The capability is now in place for some exciting innovations from our enterprise business partners – for example, a branch office of a bank may be able to stand up and operate multiple applications and services using only a 5G Standalone capable device for network access, massively reducing the infrastructure required to set up. 

We’re proud to be leading the way in Australia and around the world in ensuring our customers have early access to all the benefits of advancing 5G technology. This upgrade means that our customers will not only have access to Australia’s best 5G*, but they can also start to explore what can be done with the best 5G network experience.   


Things you need to know 

* Telstra has rolled out coverage to selected areas in Australia. Find 5G coverage maps on our Coverage page.

Network | T22 | Tech and Innovation |

That winning feeling: we’ve been awarded best mobile network in Australia

By Sri Amirthalingam December 9, 2019

At its simplest level, when you turn on your phone it connects to a mobile network and you can make calls, send messages or stream and upload content.

Behind-the-scenes there is a myriad of things that happen that allow you to do these things and it all rests on the performance of your mobile network.

We have a long history of developing and investing in the latest wireless technology, and our mobile network performance is backed by more than $8 billion in investment over the last five years to June 2019.

Recently, our commitment to investing, expanding and strengthening our mobile network was recognised when we won Best in Test, Best in Voice, and Best in Crowd-Sourced Quality awards in the umlaut (formerly P3) 2019 Australian Mobile Network Benchmark.

The 2019 umlaut Australian Mobile NetworkBenchmark is a direct continuation of P3’s annual mobile network benchmarking in Australia since 2014.This latest benchmark combines crowd-sourced smartphone app data together with walk and drive survey testing of smartphone voice and data along over 48,000 km of measuring distance, with a test area accounting for 79 per cent of the total Australian population Australia.

For the first time in Australia, umlaut issued a separate coverage report based on their crowd-sourced data that graphicallyshowedTelstra’s greater geographic coverage compared to other carriers.TheseresultsrecognisedTelstra in all coverage categories, including Best for Voice Coverage, Best for Data Coverage, and Best 4G coverage.

These latest awards add to our “Best in Test” wins in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018, “Best in Test” awards in Systemics national mobile benchmark surveys in 2017 and 2018, and our ranking asOokla’sFastest Mobile Network in Australia every year since 2014.

For you, our customers, what does winning these award categories mean?

It means Telstracontinues to be amongst the world’s best in delivering the best experience we can for our customers. We are delivering on our T22 strategy to provide you with Australia’s largest, fastest, and most reliable next-generation network.1

Nationwide, we deliver thegreatestmobile coverage andmore reliablespeeds in more places. We were also first to offer 5G to Australians, and already have 5G in 25 metro and regional cities around Australia. We are committed to delivering further 5G coverage to another 10 Australian cities by end June 2020.2

Our commitment to regional coverage is unmatched through our investment of $3 billion in our mobile network in regional Australia over the last five years, including our investment in the Federal Government Mobile Black Spot Program.

Through the four current rounds of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, we are investing $280 million of our own funds and have already built over 600 new base stations which add to our total ofmore than 780 new mobile base stations – that’s triple the commitment of all other carriers combined.

With what we’ve built in theFederalGovernment MobileBlackSpotProgram to date, we have already provided new or improved mobile coverage for more than 60,000 homes and businesses, afurther5000 kilometres of road and across around 185,000 square kilometres of the country.

We are immensely proud of what we have achieved, and we are continuingto progress with our 4G and 5G rollout and mobile blackspot program.

For further information, visit umlaut.

Telstra News |

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5: the continuing evolution of our mobile network

By Nikos Katinakis October 9, 2019

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 it was carried on to boost the performance of newer and more efficient technology.

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

In May this year we launched 5G with the release of the first 5G devices in Australia. As an early adopter and pioneer of 5G, we are on the cusp of the latest mobile technology worldwide.

Telstra’s 5G technology is now available in selected sites within 10 cities around Australia, and over the next year we expect our coverage to expand to at least 35 Australian cities. Our investment to bring 5G to Australia is significant, and forms part of our around $8 billion of spend in our mobile network over the last five years (to 30 June 2019) to enhance the capacity and reach it is providing.  

To help continue enhancing the network, it will eventually mean our older network technology will need to be switched off, so the spectrum that is used to carry data and voice calls over our oldest mobile network technology can be repurposed to help grow 5G.

Telstra’s 3G technology – which you might also know as NextG – was switched on in 2006, and was heralded at the time for its more reliable service, increased speeds and coverage, and what it enabled for customers and businesses on the go. It was the start of being able to send picture messages, stream video and access the internet on smartphones.

As networktechnologyadvances, we can use our network to deliver better experiences and meet the changing ways that we use mobile data.

Similarly to when we turned off our CDMA technology and re-purposed its 850MHz spectrum for 3G services, switching off 3G will let us again repurpose this same spectrum this time to 5G to allow us to continue growing and improving our latest generation 5G technology to meet your data needs in the future. The era of 5G will bring ever greater advancements in areas like mobile gaming, virtual reality experiences, HD video conferencing, driverless cars and other applications that haven’t even been dreamt up yet.

We are giving our customers more than four years’ notice to prepare for the change ahead of the June 2024 closure date.

Between now and then we’ll be upgrading and expanding our 4G coverage to a materially equivalent size and reach to our 3G footprint. Most customers will generally notice an improvement in speed when using a compatible device – in many cases a substantial one. We are working to assess our product range and all current areas with 3G only coverage in order to give you the best possible experience on 4G and 5G.

We are committed to delivering the best possible network for regional Australia. In 2011 we were the first carrier to extend 4G services into regional areas and we now reach 99.2 per cent of the Australian population. We are not going to rest on our laurels as we push forward into the era of 5G, and we are always going to strive to do the best we can for all our customers wherever they are across the country.

Mobile technology is progressing at a rapid pace. And Telstra is leading the way.

Subsea cables connecting the world
Business and Enterprise | Network |

Boosting Australia’s connection to the world with Southern Cross

By Michael Ebeid AM October 2, 2019

As we continue to develop the fast, high-capacity, low-latency networks that connect Australians to each other, we must also think about how we connect to the rest of the world. That’s why we’ve been working hard with our partners at the Southern Cross Cable Network to strengthen our investment in current infrastructure while planning for future growth.

72,000 leagues under the sea

You could be forgiven for thinking that connectivity between countries was predominately handled by satellites and other space-based infrastructure. In fact, the real solutions are buried deep beneath the waves. Subsea cables form a crucial part of our international network infrastructure.

Telstra operates the largest intra-Asia subsea cable network in the region, and we’re growing our footprint in Asia-Pacific with critical new cable paths. Our subsea cable network currently spans more than 400,000 kilometres – or just under 72,000 nautical leagues – under the sea. Jules Verne would be proud!

Such a vast network is enough to circle the globe more than 10 times over. This elaborate and impressive network of fibre optic cables continues to expand as we keep pace with the voracious appetite Australians have for high-speed data. But more than just planning for capacity, we’re mindful that we need to build resiliency at the same time as speed.

That’s where our investment with Southern Cross Cable Network comes in.

Almost 80 per cent of all internet traffic to Australia comes from the US, which makes the need for a high-speed and low-latency connection between our two nations paramount. Our new investment in the Southern Cross Cable Network’s (SCCN) existing cable infrastructure as well as the upcoming NEXT cable is about safeguarding that connectivity for the future.

Telstra has acquired a 25 per cent equity interest in the existing Southern Cross Cable Network, joining existing shareholders in the project. It follows several other investments in our subsea cable infrastructure, including:

  • A significant increase in fibre capacity to our subsea infrastructure using Infinera’s Infinite Capacity Engine 4, and
  • The launch of a new rapid restoration service on our assured availability “Always on” service – a world-first offering to key routes in Asia – reducing restoration time from within eight hours to just minutes.

The investment in Southern Cross builds on our existing footprint across Asia-Pacific where we carry over 30 per cent of the region’s active capacity.

Alongside these investments, we’re excited to also partner with SCCN as one of the anchor customer for its upcoming NEXT cable. Designed to carry 72 Terabits per second of traffic, the equivalent of simultaneously streaming 4.6 million ultra-high definition movies, Southern Cross’s NEXT will meet our customers’ growing data requirements well into the future.

With the completion of the Southern Cross NEXT cable scheduled for January 2022, Telstra customers will have access to capacity across the three routes across the Pacific, connecting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the United States, maximising diversity and resiliency.

Thanks to our subsea investments, we are now well placed to meet the growing data requirements of our customers now and into the future, right across the Asia-Pacific region.