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Telstra To Litter Suburbs With New 5G Millimetre Wave Towers Just To Compete With NBN

The bitter battle between Telstra and NBN is set to see the big carrier litter suburbs in Australia with 5G millimetre wave spectrum antenna’s stuck on buildings and towers in an effort to claw back lost revenues and compete with the NBN, the antennas will be additional to the existing 4G towers in suburbs.

Meanwhile archrival NBN will avoid the use of towers and antenna’s by taking their new fibre offerings underground using ducts Telstra sold off to concentrate on 4G and 5G technology delivered by antenna’s on towers.

Recently Telstra head of networks Nikos Katinakis revealed that select Australian suburbs will be urged to invest in Telstra’s 5G offering for the home Vs NBN claiming that their new millimetre wave technology is superior to what the NBN is offering over fibre and via fixed copper wires.

The big draw back for homeowners is that while the much higher frequency wavelengths deliver improved short-range broadband and lower latency, they can only travel short distances – a maximum radius of 500 metres compared with 30 kilometres in the lower bands resulting in the need for antenna’s to be dotted around a suburb being offered the service.

The maximum radius of 500 metres is also hindered by the fact that the 5G millimetre wave technology also struggles to penetrate solid surfaces such as walls whereas the current NBN service delivered via ducts can be extended in a home using extenders from the likes of D-Link, and Linksys.

The problem will result in Telstra having to invest in a higher concentration of mobile towers and small cells in suburbs where consumers are becoming more concerned about 5G towers and antenna concentration.

Mr Katinakis told the Australian Financial Review that the 5G tower build was not as onerous or capital intensive as some have suggested, but admitted that that it would be denser than lower band networks whose towers will be located next to or near to the new Telstra towers

The first auction of the ultra-fast 5G millimetre wave spectrum will take place in March, with Telstra who sold their copper underground networks now looking to pepper Australian suburbs with antenna’s in an effort to compete with the underground offering from NBN which in many suburbs will be delivered via fibre cable following a decision to invest over $3 Billion in new underground fibre for Australian homes.

Katinakis says he is working to “maximise the utilisation” of the ultra-fast millimetre wave spectrum in an effort to improve Telstra returns for shareholders whose dividends have halved during the past three years.

Mr Katinakis told the AFR the millimetre wave auction, which will give each bidder the opportunity to buy up to one gigahertz of spectrum and deliver more varieties of wireless connectivity with more data at faster speeds due to the roll out of the additional antennas.

“That amount of spectrum is huge compared to what we have today,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “From our thinking, it should be important that we maximise the utilisation of that spectrum. With so much spectrum and the 5G capabilities, we are going to deploy the network that allows us to truly use all of it.”

Mr Katinakis said Telstra would “target 5G fixed wireless at locations where consumers who want 50Mbs, but only get 12, or who want 100Mbs, but only get 30 on a good day”.

He made no mention of pricing.

The AFR said that until recently Telstra had been cagey about its willingness to go head-to-head with the NBN, but over 2020 it became progressively clearer that Telstra who are losing mobile market share via their shops and are now reliant on JB Hi Fi to deliver growth needed to take action to restore their fortunes in the mobile market.

In October, the NBN respond to Telstra’s 5G threats by announcing a $3.5 billion upgrade to full fibre of the parts of the network that still use slow copper lines. The government-owned network will hope full fibre services will snuff out any demand for a 5G alternative.

Katinakis said Telstra would target neighbourhoods rather than individuals.

“If everybody in the neighbourhood has fibre except you, it’s unlikely we will come and serve you,” he said.

The federal government announced last August that it would put 2.4 gigahertz of spectrum either side of the 26 gigahertz mark under the hammer, of which any individual bidder can bid for a maximum of one gigahertz, or about 42 per cent, of that.

There will be no limit on who can bid, theoretically opening up the process to smaller telcos, other businesses and even speculators. But past experience suggests the auction will be dominated by the big three mobile network owners.

When asked about the future of 5G Katinakis said the future uses of 5G would not really be known until the technology was widely available.


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