Vodafone first telco to use NBN for mobile coverage boost

Telco uses NBN infrastructure to deliver coverage in mobile black spot

Vodafone has signed the first deal to use NBN’s long awaited Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) product, which will let telcos leverage National Broadband Network infrastructure to boost their mobile coverage.

The telco will use the new NBN service to deliver coverage in Molong, NSW. Vodafone has installed extra antennas on an NBN tower normally used to deliver the network wholesaler’s fixed wireless service in the region.

Voice and data will be transported back to NBN’s Dubbo Point of Interconnection and handed off to Vodafone.

Vodafone’s Molong coverage boost is part of the federal government mobile black spot program, which helps subsidise telcos’ rollout of mobile infrastructure in underserved areas.

Vodafone has long advocated making NBN infrastructure available to telcos, with Telstra’s cellular network still having the widest coverage out of Australia's mobile network operators.

CSAS has been on NBN’s product roadmap since late 2013.

“The good thing about this is not just that we are helping to deliver a new service for end-users but also that we offering customers new products to help them extend their portfolio and spread their networks,” NBN’s chief customer officer John Simon said in a statement.

Simon said that mobile network operators would potentially use CSAS as part of a Wi-Fi rollout or as a way to deliver small cell coverage.

An Optus spokesperson said the telco didn’t have “any current plans” to use CSAS.

“Optus has made significant investment to expand its regional mobile network footprint to deliver more choice to regional areas,” the spokesperson said.

“We take a wide range of factors into consideration when planning mobile network expansion, including population movement and growth, increasing mobile traffic, and trends.”

“At this stage Telstra has not utilised the NBN backhaul service however we will continue to evaluate it as required,” a Telstra spokesperson said, noting that the company has rolled out more than 90 base stations as part of the 429 Telstra sites that received funding in round one of the mobile black spot program.

“Australia has an open and competitive mobile market. Regulations have always mandated that competitors have access to one another’s mobile towers for colocation of equipment and use of backhaul links,” the spokesperson said.

“In fact, the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] recently reduced the regulated price of backhaul by 72% in regional areas because competition has been driving prices down.

“Encouraging competition and ongoing investment is the best way to ensure that customers in regional areas continue to benefit from mobile network improvements.”

The ACCC has been conducting an inquiry into domestic mobile roaming.

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