Optus brings forward 3G network deadline to 2008

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Optus brings forward 3G network deadline to 2008

Vodafone’s announcement to roll out nationwide infrastructure for a new 3G network has sent a rocket up Optus’s proverbial, with Australia’s number two telco declaring it will now complete its 3G rollout by December 2008, 18 months ahead of schedule.

Although Optus originally planned to complete its 3G rollout (with 96 percent population coverage) by 2009, this week’s announcement by Vodafone to build its own national 3G network by December 2008 appears to have prompted Optus into quicker action.

“Today’s announcement is solid evidence of Optus’ ongoing investment in mobile, our focus on driving innovation in the 3G market and our commitment to providing real competition and choice,” said Optus Chief Executive, Paul O’Sullivan.

“The roll out is on track – we have upgraded our network in all capital cities to 3G/HSPA and the first phase of the extended upgrade is already complete, with areas in Newcastle and Wollongong in service today.”

O’Sullivan said the Optus 3G/HSPA network already reaches 60 percent of the population and if all plans stay on track, it will hit 80 percent by June 2008 and completion by December 2008.

Optus also confirmed that Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks will be the chosen vendors to deliver the radio network infrastructure required to complete the combination 900 megahertz (MHz) and 2100MHz frequency 3G//High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) national network.

By using a combination of 900MHz and 2100MHz, Optus will be able to reduce its infrastructure costs down to $500 million, the same investment that Vodafone has proposed to complete its network. Optus originally budgeted $800 million to build its network entirely on the 2100MHz spectrum.

When complete, the network will cover 96 percent of the population, replicating the coverage of Optus’ existing 2G network which covers over 650,000 square kilometres. The 900MHz range will be used primarily in rural and regional Australia.

“The 900MHz range for 3G/HSPA is perfectly suited to the Australian landscape. Using this frequency, radio signals have a greater range – giving better quality and wider coverage across sparsely populated rural and remote areas as well as an enhanced depth of coverage,” O’Sullivan said.

“Additionally, the use of 900MHz and 2100MHz for 3G/HSPA will give the network greater alignment with other mobile markets, as many European and Asia Pacific countries are currently either considering, or are already using, the technology. The two frequencies will inter-operate seamlessly.”

The Optus announcement means that Australia will be serviced by three nationwide 3G networks come December next year. And although the new network will drive competition in this Telstra Next G dominated arena, Australia’s number one telco is unperturbed.

"It's one thing for foreign-owned telcos to realise that to be competitive, they’ve actually got to invest. But in order to make a phone call Australians need a lot more than the media releases from Singtel Optus and Vodafone,” said Telstra spokeperson, Peter Taylor.

"It's like promising to build a plane that is slower and smaller than aircraft already in the air. You have to wonder whether they seriously expect customers to choose a network that is slower and smaller than Telstra's."

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