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4G wars: The road to 4G for Telstra

Telstra, the number one telco in Australia, has clearly led the race in the 4G war and was the first company to announce 4G plans.

Over the next two years, Telstra will invest $500 million in developing its 4G network and adding another 1000 sites to its portfolio by June next year, growing the network as more 4G compatible handsets are released. The upgrade to 4G has already been a major contributor of the telco's $3.6 billion spend in fiscal-year 2012.

However, the road to 4G has been a long one for Telstra.

In February 2010, the telco completed an upgrade of its Next G HSPA+ network with dual carrier technology in response to growing demand for wireless broadband services.

One year later in February 2011, the telco officially confirmed its plans to upgrade its network to 4G capabilities in capital cities and some regional centres by the end of 2011.

At the time, David Thodey, CEO at Telstra, said the company would operate its 4G technology in the 1800MHz spectrum, which was previously used for 2G services, and integrate it with its HSPA+ service in the 850MHz range, which was to be funded from Telstra's budget for capital expenditure.

"We see the integration of LTE technology into the Next G network as a way to continue to deliver high quality services and meet growing customer demand," Thodey said in a statement.

Three months later the telco switched on its first 4G mobile equipment in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane in August 2011 for commercial trials. Telstra also released its first commercial 4G USB device, which used 4G/3G HSPA technology to access 1800MHz and 850MHz spectrum bands.

In September 2011, Telstra opened up its 4G network to the public, stating customers could access download speeds of 2-40Mbps. However, 4G access was limited to within 5km from capital city GPOs and within 3km from town centres in 80 regional centres across Australia.

One year after the telco originally announced it was embarking on a 4G upgrade, Telstra also launched a pre-paid 4G product and a battery-powered mobile wi-fi device in March this year.

In April, Telstra announced it was extending its 4G coverage to some Newcastle suburbs to more than double the telco's 4G coverage.

Most recently, in August this year, Telstra announced plans to double its 4G coverage in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to reach 66 per cent of the population, up from 40 per cent.

As part of the expansion, Telstra said it would install more than 1000 new mobile base stations by mid-next year, following the upgrade of more than 5000 mobile base stations in the previous 12 months. "Once the network expansion is complete, Telstra 4G will cover even more of Australia's highest population centres. For instance, coverage will stretch out in a 10-15 kilometre radius from the Sydney GPO and a 15-20 kilometre radius from the Melbourne GPO," Brendon Riley, chief operations officer at Telstra, said in a statement. "Our investment is geared towards sustaining our network reach and performance for all our existing and potential new customers -- particularly anyone looking to trade up to a 4G device."


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