Speed of 4G rollout depends on demand: Telstra

Telstra expects an increasing number of 4G devices to drive customer adoption.

Customer penetration will set the pace for Telstra’s 4G LTE rollout in Australia, according to Telstra executive director of networks, Mike Wright.

“The more popular 4G becomes, the quicker the actual rollout will occur,” Wright told Computerworld Australia after the telco announced plans to double 4G coverage over the next 10 months.

The 4G expansion announced today is part of a $1.2 billion combined investment this year in the Telstra wireless network that also includes expansion of the rest of the network, Wright said. Telstra said that it would expand 4G coverage to two-thirds of the population from 40 per cent by mid-2013. “Even outside of where 4G is deployed, we’ve now grown our footprint of dual-carrier HSPA to 80 per cent of the population,” he said.

Telstra 4G is currently available in more than 100 metropolitan and regional locations, including all capital CBDs. The service covers 40 per cent of the population, Telstra said. The telco has connected more than 500,000 devices connected to the 4G network, including 160,000 smartphones.

“Depending on the rate of takeup of 4G, what we will start to see is [as] we get high penetration in our busiest cells, we’ll actually start expanding those cells using 4G technology rather than 3G technology,” he said. That will “actually drive the footprint even further” than what was announced today, he said.

Telstra expects “the vast majority of the new devices we get in the coming 12 months to be 4G capable,” Wright said. That should increase customer penetration of 4G devices, he said.

“All the handsets are coming with LTE and the dual-carrier HSPA capability,” he said. That’s an “improvement” from the last few years, he said, when it was mostly broadband dongles featuring those technologies.

Telstra is “comfortable” it can continue rolling out 4G with existing spectrum, but the telco plans to participate in the Digital Dividend auction, Wright said. Telstra is “reusing and refarming our 2G spectrum and we are continuing to look at future opportunities to refarm additional spectrum,” he said. “And of course there is a spectrum auction coming up next April.”

Telstra and its rivals Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia are all investing billions in 4G rollout. Click here for a report card on each carrier’s status.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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