You might have seen last week that Telstra has added over 1.3 million new mobile services to our network in 2012-13 meaning we now have over 15 million services connected to our mobile network.

As the head of Telstra’s networks I often get asked how can we continue to add this many customers (we’ve added over 4.5 million in the past three years) and support the corresponding explosion in data consumption (4G data is growing at 23% per month) and still maintain the quality of experience customers have come to expect from the Telstra network?

The answer is pretty straight forward – we use our engineering skills to optimise the network design as we grow and we also need to be continually creative with using new technology.

Engineering is not often thought of as a creative field but I challenge that notion. There’s nothing we like better than to take a complex problem and solve it through innovative use and adoption of new and disruptive technologies.

Just recently my engineering team has been busy testing the next advance in 4G radio technology. In the process we have achieved another world first.

In the Sunshine Coast area north of Brisbane we have upgraded a series of our network sites with the world’s first ever LTE- Advanced Carrier Aggregation network using the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands. Well what does this mean?

While not yet available to the market, the trial technology provides better 4G coverage and capacity to support mobile broadband speeds and a more consistent experience as we continue to add more customers to our network.

Through Carrier Aggregation, we effectively ‘glue’ two bands of spectrum together, creating a broader channel through which we can push more data and by using the lower 900MHz spectrum we can extend the reach and in-building performance of the 4G signal.

We have a number of motivators in doing the world’s first LTE-Advanced trial in these bands:

  • When we launch the new service we will offer Australians a leading new device that supports both this LTE-Advanced technology and the latest Cat4 LTE technology that is capable of higher peak speeds in the same spectrum. For customers this means better coverage and throughput in the parts of the network where we need to use the lower 900 MHz frequency for coverage, as well as higher peak speeds in other parts of the network when operating on 4G using Cat4 technology.
  • We expect other carriers around the world will build on the work we have done and this will grow the scale and evolution of this technology ecosytem. Tests like ours with partners like Ericsson (network), Qualcomm (chipsets) and Netgear (devices) give other carriers confidence that they too can make the move to these new technologies knowing that they are ready to deliver.
  • Finally, we also intend to deploy the next generation of LTE-A when we get access to 700MHz spectrum in 2015. Building on the foundation and learnings we get out of this current work we will combine larger blocks of spectrum in the 700MHz and 1800MHz bands to deliver blistering download speeds, with a theoretical peak network speed nearing 300 Mbps.

All of this work goes to increase the capacity and performance of the network so we can continue to manage the relentless growth in network traffic demand and the corresponding customer expectations of network reliability.

This builds on the work we have done in the past seven years since the launch of our Next G® network. We have committed to bring 4G to 85 percent of the population by Christmas 2013. This is in addition to our 3G network which covers over 99.3 percent of Australians, and a landmass of over 2.3 million square kilometres – more than double the size of any other mobile network in Australia.