Telstra has raised the stakes in the mobile wars with the telco reinforcing its long-running partnership with Sweden’s Ericsson to give its core network a 5G makeover.
It’s the first definitive step in Telstra’s “Network of the Future” initiative announced in October and the telco’s network boss Mike Wright said the latest three-year network development and rollout plan will help fast-forward Telstra’s capabilities.
The optical network forms the foundation for Telstra’s fixed and mobile networks and the partnership will see Ericsson supply, install and integrate solutions designed to make Telstra’s networks ready to deal with higher traffic growth and the demands of 5G and Internet of Things.
Mr Wright added that the futureproofing drive won’t detract from Telstra’s ongoing efforts to ensure that its existing network services remain up to scratch.
“We have always been very keen to exploit new technologies for our networks and deliver the best service, customers should be excited that we are not hanging on to the past,” Mr Wright said at a media event in Barcelona on the eve of Mobile World Congress,
“Rather than add to the old network year on year, we are investing early and starting to bring forward the underlying replacement and evolution of the optical layer of our network.
“We can use it as in the traditional way in the short term but it’s ready for the evolution when we start to overlay new technologies over the network,” he added.
The initiative is part of the $3 billion Telstra is committed spending on its core networks over the next three years in the wake of a string of embarrassing outages on its network. It also gives Telstra a jump in the evolving 5G race locally, given that Optus and Vodafone are also starting to tout their capabilities and investment plans.
The national optical network expansion is one of a series of programs outlined by Telstra and Ericsson with the two working with chipmaker Qualcomm to conduct interoperability testing and an over-the-air field 5G trial based on standards still under development.
The trials are intended to give Telstra a head start in accelerating the commercialisation of the global 3GPP 5G standard, with Mr Wright saying that it will see the telco do some “actual testing with trial customer traffic.”
“If the testing goes well, if the standards go well, we will be setting ourselves up to be up there as one of the world’s first networks that are ready to bring up a 5G network,” Mr Wright said.
Telstra and Ericsson are also working together on what the telco claims to be the first national IoT-enabled mobile network. The companies have started Cat M1 trials in Melbourne and Tasmania. Cat M1 technology uses the 1.4 MHz spectrum band to provide average upload speeds between 200 kilobits per second (kpbs) and 400 kpbs. The technology, which is expected to become commercially available by 2017, allows the deployment of large numbers of low cost, low power consuming sensor devices.
Telstra and Ericsson are working with device vendors Sierra Wireless, Altair and Bosch in the local trials, one of which saw a sensor network deployed at Pooley Wines in regional Tasmania to collect data like soil moisture and temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and wind speed.
Ericsson’s ANZ head Emilio Romero said that the series of programs are the building blocks of Telstra’s future.
“Together we are putting the network fundamentals in place for Telstra’s Network of the Future program,” he said.
“Contributing to these advances are Qualcomm Technologies, Ciena, Sierra Wireless, Altair and Bosch — technology evolution such as those discussed are only possible through strong collaborative approaches.”
“These collaborations will deliver Telstra advanced network capabilities in optical, 5G, IoT and Cloud, and in turn support Telstra’s customers to receive the benefits from early technology innovation,” he added.
* The author travelled to Mobile World Congress as a guest of Oppo.