The Sydney Morning Herald reported this morning that "Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce today that Optus and Telstra mobile coverage will go live this week on the north shore and western lines underground between Central, Town Hall, North Sydney and Chatswood...Vodafone customers will have to wait, however, with equipment between Central and Chatswood to be rolled out in a couple of months.
Berejiklian was quoted as saying; "Optus first approached the previously named State Rail Authority in 1996 seeking to install network infrastructure to provide mobile phone coverage in the Sydney CBD underground rail network. But Labor failed to do anything about it." ( The minister's announcement has now been available - see below)
The Optus announcement is extremely vague and iTWire is seeking clarification. Nowhere does it state unequivocally that the network Optus has built is solely for the use of Optus customers, rather it refers to "Sydneysiders" and suggests that Optus has simply been the network supplier. (It is not uncommon for facilities such as tunnels to have a single mobile network used by all operators.)
Optus says: "For the first time since mobile roll out, Sydneysiders will now receive coverage signals on their mobile phones, tablets and laptops. As the lead mobile carrier in this highly anticipated industry project, Optus has been instrumental in implementing the much needed network infrastructure to allow mobile coverage access on one of Sydney's busiest train lines.
"In partnership with the NSW Government and RailCorp, Optus today makes it possible for Sydneysiders to call, SMS, update social networks, browse the internet, Skype friends and family and even work when travelling by train between Central Station and Chatswood...After a comprehensive testing period, Optus successfully switched on the network last night for Australians to enjoy on their daily commute and get the most out of their trip."
The release added: "This is stage one of a broader network expansion project that will eventually see Optus infrastructure delivered to the City Circle tunnels...Optus and RailCorp will continue working together to bring the next stages of this project to busy commuters later this year."
The Optus statement is made more confusing by the insertion of quotations from Günther Ottendorfer, managing director Optus Networks - which we have elided in the quotations above - that are clearly references to the expansion of Optus own network elsewhere.
Ottendorfer says: "This is an important step in our vision to lead the industry in customer experience by ensuring Australians stay connected anywhere, on any device. We will continue to invest in the expansion of the Optus Network and remain committed to ensuring our customers have access in even more places than ever before," and:
"Optus is currently rolling out one of Australia's largest network enhancements, delivering stronger 3G coverage across regional centres and major capital cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Brisbane and Perth. As a result our customers are experiencing better in-building coverage, stronger 3G signals and faster data speeds in more places."
(Since this article was first posted the NSW Government has issued an announcement)
Minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian said: "The NSW Government has been working with lead carrier Optus to install more than 10 kilometres of cabling, providing reception for all customers using mobile phones, tablets and laptops inside rail tunnels on the North Shore and Western Line. From this week, Optus and Telstra mobile phone coverage will go live from Central toTown Hall, North Sydney and on to Chatswood. Vodafone equipment will be connected to the network in coming months.
'The roll out of this important infrastructure will now continue, with coverage soon to be provided on other parts of the network still in need of upgrading...We now have plans to extend mobile coverage in tunnels along the City Circle and Eastern Suburbs Line, with preliminary scoping and design works underway."
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