Telstra to launch trial of mmWave 5G services this year

Reveals detail of LTE range upgrade

Andy Penn with the Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro
Telstra

Telstra plans to provide some of its customers with access to 5G services based on millimetre wave spectrum this year, the telco revealed today.

Although mmWave spectrum in the 26GHz band is not due to be auctioned off by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) until early next year, the telco has obtained ‘scientific’ licences from the regulator to enable it to conduct testing. It plans to use those licences to offer mmWave-based services to a limited number of customers in selected areas during 2020.

The ACMA is expected to conduct the auction of 26GHz in Q1 of 2021, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) currently devising allocation limits for telcos. Internationally, the 26GHz and 28GHz bands are both being used for 5G rollouts.

The 5G coverage currently offered by Telstra and Optus, and soon Vodafone, is based on spectrum in the 3.6GHz band. However, eventually low-, mid- and high-band frequencies are all expected to be used by telcos for 5G.

Telcos getting their hands on mmWave spectrum will enable them to offer even faster speeds and lower latency, albeit with a trade-off in propagation.

“Historically low band has been very popular because it has extensive propagation, but it has slightly less capacity,” Telstra CEO Andy Penn told a media briefing. mmWave, by contrast, can offer mobile network operators significantly more capacity.

“Ultimately with 5G what will happen is that the devices in the ecosystem will develop such that multiples of bands will be able to be utilised in the same devices on the same network, so you get optimisation for propagation and capacity at the same time,” the CEO said.

Telstra didn’t reveal full detail of the sites for the mmWave trials, although it said one will involve the MCG. The telco holds ACMA-issued scientific licences to use 27GHz at sites in Melbourne’s CBD, Southport and Labrador in Queensland, and Parramatta in NSW.

The telco offered a preview of its first device that will support mmWave: A hotspot dubbed the ‘Telstra 5G Wi-Fi Pro’. The company hasn’t yet revealed pricing or timeline for the devices availability.

Ericsson, Telstra partner for LTE range boost

Telstra today also revealed that in partnership with Ericsson it had extended the maximum range of its LTE cell sites. A software upgrade enables the range of a 4G tower to be extended from the 100 kilometres of the 3GPP standard to 200 kilometres.

Telstra's networks principal, mobile innovation rollout, Paul Milford, cautioned that it wasn’t a “magic bullet” for extending capacity in all areas, as upgrading a site will often involve additional work such as boosting backhaul.

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