Australian operator Telstra targeted expanding 5G coverage to 75 per cent of the population by end-June 2021, up from the current level of about a third.

In a blog, CEO Andrew Penn said the service is already available in 53 cities and regional towns across the country, with more than 10 million Australians living, working or passing through its 5G network footprint each day.

He claimed the company is already ahead of its competitors due to its level of investment: “We intend to extend that lead because Australia needs 5G.”

In March, the operator announced it would reallocate AUD500 million ($356.2 million) of capex to boost 5G network capacity.

Penn said the investment allowed it to accelerate its rollout while injecting much-needed investment into the Australian economy following the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

After running a free 5G trial over the last 12 months, the operator opted not to move ahead with a planned separate fee for 5G service. Penn said it will instead invite eligible existing customers to move to new plans by end-September.

Telstra launched 5G service on the 3.6GHz band in May 2019 and recently detailed a focus on mmWave technology, seeking to boost capacity and data rates in high-density areas.

Rival Optus started commercial mobile 5G operations in November 2019, while Vodafone Hutchison Australia began field tests using 700MHz spectrum in May, planning deployment in selected areas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth.