Telstra sparks 900 MHz LTE movement

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Telstra sparks 900 MHz LTE movement
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Telstra’s spectrum plans hinge on support from carriers in surrounding countries to build the demand necessary for global device and chip manufacturers to support the frequency over LTE technology.

But Wright said an inconsistency in the way carriers speak about and label spectrum had caused headaches for a standardised ecosystem.

The problem is most apparent in the way carriers talk about the ‘digital dividend’; the refarming of spectrum once used for analogue television to new mobile services.

While the Australian Government is selling off primarily spectrum in the 700 MHz band, using the same name in the US actually refers to quite distinct frequencies while European carriers have referred to similar frequencies as the 800 MHz band.

The inconsistency in frequencies used globally has led to device fragmentation, most recently requiring Apple to launch two distinct versions of the third generation iPad to serve US carriers, without supporting capable LTE networks outside North America.

“As an industry the challenge that we really need to be looking at is how we create an Asia Pacific demand for digital dividend which would then lead to scale, volume and manufacturers wanting to build a device for that handset that supported that frequency,” Wright said.

“We all need to work on the critical timing when there’s enough scale and mass to see enough demand that the handset makers can produce these devices and know that they’ll see enough of them.”

2G’s death?

Though Telstra’s 900 MHz plan would eat into what remains of the spectrum it uses for a 2G network, Wright said he could not predict the end of GSM just yet.

The network still services 15 percent of Telstra’s mobile customers.

“We wouldn’t necessarily need to refarm all of [the 900 MHz spectrum],“ he said.

“When you’ve got a low-traffic volume you can compress traffic up into other bits of spectrum.”

Much of Telstra's LTE rollout so far has focused on capital cities and regional centres.

Like the company’s fastest portions of the 3G network - which cover only 60 percent of the Australian population - it remains unclear whether LTE would provide significant national coverage in the near-time future.

While Telstra switched off its CDMA network just two years after the launch of Next G, Wright said it would be “very hard to predict” a similar demise for the 2G technology.

“We’re not at this stage advocating absolutely turning off 2G,” he said.

“I think it’s a very long term outcome but I don’t think we need to worry about that at this stage.”

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