TPG Telecom adds 550 sites to 5G network rollout plan

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TPG Telecom adds 550 sites to 5G network rollout plan

85 percent of top six cities to be served by the end of 2021.

TPG Telecom is planning to ramp up its 5G rollout over the next 12 months, with more than 85 percent of the population in the country’s six largest cities expected to be served by the end of 2021.

The company, which formed in the merger of TPG and Vodafone Hutchison Australia earlier this year, said in its full-year results today that more than 1200 sites had now entered the planning phase.

In February, when Vodafone unveiled the plans and cell location maps for its standalone 5G network, it said an initial 650 sites were in the planning phase across seven Australian cities and regions, with the first sites to progressively go live from mid-2020.

But at the time, the company noted its 5G network proposition would be considerably strengthened once its $15 billion merger with TPG was finalised, which the full-year results appeared to confirm on Friday.

“We have already commissioned more than 1200 sites that are works in progress at this time,” TPG Telecom CEO Iñaki Berroeta said on a results call, adding that site building is “gaining momentum”.

“We are now ramping up deployment, and are targeting more than 85 percent population coverage in the top six cities, by the end of next year.”

TPG Telecom said the top six cities referred to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra. Although not mentioned, the Gold Coast is also expected to be served by the network.

Berroeta said that after securing Nokia as its 5G equipment vendor late last year, the company began its 5G rollout in March, following a 18-month delay caused by the government's decision to ban 5G equipment vendors Huawei and ZTE.

While Berroeta said the delay was “unfortunate”, he noted that 5G device penetration had not progressed greatly in the intervening months and was “very low in the market” at roughly around “2 to 3 percent growth”.

“We estimate that by the end of next year, 80 percent of Australians we have access to a 5G device, but that time, as I said, our plan is to deliver 85 percent coverage in the top cities,” he said.

In addition to its 5G activities, TPG Telecom has also performed 445 network upgrades since the merger, including through the “integration of TPG Corporation spectrum into the Vodafone mobile network at 318 sites”.

“Network performance has also been boosted in the Melbourne CBD and parts of Sydney where TPG Corporation small cells have been activated and 700 MHz spectrum added to sites,” the company said.

It has similarly “commenced a program to connect TPG Corporation fibre to an additional 700 sites on the Vodafone mobile network”, which it said builds on a 2015 agreement that saw “TPG Corporation fibre connected to more than 3000 Vodafone mobile sites”.

The company also said that it would begin inviting its iiNet mobile customers to migrate to the Vodafone network from August 24, with those that do receiving two months' free access.

It reported a revenue fall of 11 percent to $1.5 billion in first half of 2020, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) decreased by 9 percent to $531 million.

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