The leadership team of Telstra attended CES in Las Vegas last week and met with the likes of Google and other Internet giants, as Australia’s largest mobile operator gears up for a major 5G trial in 2018 and also stays committed to LTE-Broadcast technology.
In a media briefing, CEO Andy Penn said the company made the long trip to meet with Google, Microsoft, Ericsson, Qualcomm and others as it aims to bring 5G technology to Australia.
“We were around 3G, we were around 4G, and we will be around 5G. It’s important those global standards take into consideration the peculiarities of the Australian market.”
Mike Wright, Telstra’s executive director of networks, reiterated plans to deploy a ‘pre-standard’ 5G trial at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, testing technology such as MIMO and beam-forming.
“The trial is how we get really early insights into the technology,” said Wright. “There’s a lot of momentum pushing it against a 2020 commercial launch – we want to ensure we understand it.”
Wright added Telstra recently pushed for changes to the worldwide 5G standard to ensure access would be available outside Australia’s cities.
“We’ve already got three changes or more through to optimise it for Australia because the rest of the world forgets how big Australia is,” he stated.
“Inevitably, they build everything to run to about 30 or 40kms. This time, for the first time, we’ll bring that 5G standard to Australia that has the distance limits removed.”
Wright stressed the operator “tries to be influential where it matters – we work very closely with Ericsson and Qualcomm. We get aligned with their thinking.”
In September Telstra and Ericsson trialled one of the world’s first 5G radio test beds in Melbourne, Australia, stating they brought the technology “one step closer to deployment” as the demo hit download speeds greater than 20Gb/s.
Wright also noted the operator remains committed to LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) technology despite a lack of commercial progress worldwide. Telstra was one of the earliest proponents of the tech (which is pitched as providing coverage in congested areas, particularly sports stadia), and a co-founder of the LTE Broadcast Alliance, established in April 2016 with EE, Korea Telecom and Verizon. In September the alliance named HKT, CSL Mobile, Reliance Jio, Smartfren, TIM and Turkcell as new operator partners.
However, there is a perception that after an initial bout of enthusiasm for the technology through various pilots and trials, momentum around LTE-B has waned somewhat, which could have led to the formation of the alliance.
“Hopefully this year we’ll see it come right,” quipped Wright.
“If I can shift less than 1 per cent of traffic onto my LTE-Broadcast network it’ll pay for itself,” he stated.
While claiming “the opportunities for LTE-B are enormously exciting,” such as the ability to use it for emergency alert services, Wright hinted the technology has suffered from hype. “The stadium demos have almost held it back,” he mused.