Optus to expand 3G network - What's New?
Optus to expand 3G network
30 January 2007
Reported by Albert Malik
Optus has announced today that it plans to expand its 3G UMTS network outside capital cities, with the new coverage being activated from 2008.
The first places to benefit from the new coverage blanket include Newcastle and Wollongong in New South Wales and Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria. Optus is saying 3G network coverage will reach 96 percent of the Australian population once the entire rollout is finished in 2010. This would replicate the current GSM network's footprint, which currently covers more than 650,000 square kilometres of Australia.
The new network, like its current shared network with Vodafone, will run on the 2100 MHz band and feature the HSDPA download speed upgrade. Optus says it will begin using the 3.6 Mbps version, with an upgrade to the full 14.4 Mbps type planned for a future date.
Optus has also mentioned the possibility of running parts or all of the expanded network using the 900 MHz band. The company has been trialling UMTS transmissions using this band and says it's encouraged by the results. Using the low frequency band, which is currently earmarked for its GSM network, would save it construction and maintenance costs as fewer base stations would be needed to cover the same area.
However, no current 3G handset supports UMTS on the 900 band, so this would hamper adoption for the time being. Optus seems to be going it alone with this expansion venture, saying it will be solely owned and operated by the company, but it will continue operating the current 3G network with Vodafone.
Editor's Opinion - While the Optus announcement is welcome, the fact remains that Telstra has a huge head start on the company. Its Next G network is already active and dwarfs even the planned coverage of Optus's new network. Telstra is also planning to have HSDPA upgraded to the fastest 14.4 Mbps standard by the middle of this year, so Optus will have to hurry if it is to have any hope of competing with the incumbent carrier for rural subscribers. The announcement also calls into question Optus's commitment to its joint venture network with Vodafone. While Optus says it will keep the network running, questions remain over who will fund future expansions to the network. Could Vodafone eventually go it alone, or will Optus continue to financially support its competitor to expand its coverage footprint? We'll continue to monitor developments here at iMobile.com.au.
Optus' 3G network coverage map -