Telstra says integration will be biggest hurdle in 3G rollout

Telstra is aiming to launch full 3G services in Australia by 2008; however, the biggest hurdle for the telco is integrating existing GSM and CDMA networks.

The 3G services, dubbed 3G850 after the operational megahertz range it will reside on will offer data transfer rates of 2Mbit/sec and eventually, when the 4G services is rolled out in roughly eight years, transfer speeds will be around 1Gbyte. Nearly four years from now will see a "Super 3G" service of 100Mbit/sec.

Delivering a session at the APCO (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials) conference this week titled Telstra 3G, The Network of the Future, Telstra 3G technology infrastructure manager Michael Swadling said current network services (GSM, CDMA and 3G with Hutchison) mean the telco has to build duplicate infrastructure to cater for all services. And this will create some problems.

"Each network has different characteristics and is used to cover different markets and geographic areas, which means we have to build duplicate infrastructure. The main difficulty we have for 3G is that three networks will overlay each other and in some unique coverage areas only CDMA will work; in some areas GSM doesn't and vice-versa. ... This isn't really a very good situation where you are trying for a set of services that work seamlessly across wherever the customer wants to use them," Swadling said.

"It is quite clear today that 3G standards and 3GSM are very much the world leader and some of the sorts of criteria we took into account are looking at things like access to the network through terminals like PDAs, PC Cards and handsets and what sorts of varieties customers are going to use. We also looked at the technology not just in terms of throughput, but the ability to deliver these new services and in particular to cover the existing footprint of the current 3G network."

"Basically, by the end of this year, the network itself will be capable of something very similar and commercially available sometime after the network has been completed. The rollout is a two-year project announced in November by the CEO as part of the Strategic Review. Initially we will be rolling out the network to all the existing GSM and CDMA sites, and that should be finished by the end of the year; we will then go back and link all the coverage."

The upgrade is expected to cost around $1 billion. Telstra currently operates 4900 GSM towers, 2100 3GSM towers and 3480 CDMA towers on a backbone of three core switching systems.

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