NSW gov lays out $50m plan for mobile tower sharing

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NSW gov lays out $50m plan for mobile tower sharing
From left: Optus’ Nicholas Gibson, FSG’s Vin Mullins, NSW deputy premier Paul Toole, and TPG’s Mayooran Ramachandran
NSW Government

Testing competing models ahead of $250m rollout.

Telecommunications providers and infrastructure suppliers are to cooperate in helping choose a model for tower sharing in regional NSW.

The NSW government is funding Optus, Telstra, TPG Telecom, BAI Communications, Field Solutions Group (FSG), Infrastructure Logic, NEC and Pivotel Mobile to overcome what deputy premier Paul Toole called a “patchwork” of coverage created by the “one tower, one carrier model”.

The lack of infrastructure sharing also limits competition in the regions, he said.

The eight companies were selected after a tender which closed in January this year.

The tender asked participants to “work collaboratively to identify a range of active sharing solutions that could be implemented in priority regional NSW blackspot locations”.

“This may require organisations, that would typically work in competition, to work together to design proposed active sharing solution/s,” the tender stated.

Toole said: “Our plan for network sharing will see major telecommunications providers partner with us to design sharing solutions that will boost competition, provide consumers with more choice and improve mobile coverage where people live and work.”

The $50 million pilot will result in a 14-week design process, after which successful participants will be invited to submit funding requests to roll out their network sharing solutions in the second half of 2022.  

This will be followed by a broader rollout, supported by a further $250 million from the state government.

A TPG spokesperson told iTnews the network model to be deployed will be chosen after the design phase, with four different models under consideration:

  • Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) – the site, tower, antenna and power are shared, but operators connect customers on their own radio spectrum;
  • Multo-Operator Core Network – the operators’ core networks also share radio spectrum, which allows carriers to pool spectrum available at a location;
  • OpenRAN – open protocols allow carriers to own their core network at a site while sharing radio access; and
  • Roaming – one carrier processes traffic on behalf of others.

TPG said it will be participating in designs for the first three of these models.

Most of the carriers in the NSW project are already working on shared network models of their own.

In July last year, Optus and FSG announced trials of a “host neutral” network build in Queensland.

In February, Telstra and TPG cut a deal to share sites and spectrum in regional towns using a MOCN model.

BAI Communications operates the NSW government’s Public Safety Network and also has broadcast tower coverage of most of Australia. 

In March, BAI Communications and NEC inked a partnership to collaborate on mobile network opportunities, based on neutral host network models and 5G OpenRAN technologies.

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