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Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:24

Telstra to trial future wireless technology, LTE, on Next G

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Telstra has announced plans to start trialling in its Next G network the Long Term Evolution (LTE) 3G technology capable of delivering wireless broadband at, theoretically almost 200Mbps.

Telstra plans to conduct trials starting from May in its laboratories and in the network in urban and rural areas in conjunction with incumbent supplier Ericsson and with Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei.

The trial gives Huawei its first crack at becoming a major supplier to Telstra. Telstra's Hong Kong subsidiary, CSL, is already trialling LTE feed into Telstra's planning for LTE along with the results of its Australian trials.

Huawei said it would participate in trials in Victoria and would have more than20 staff involved. It will supply base station equipment, core network equipment and LTE terminals "to demonstrate Huawei's end-to-end LTE capability."

Telstra says the trials will "seek to understand a variety of LTE's attributes including radio access characteristics, coverage, performance, signal propagation and various enhanced packet core features."

Although it has made no commitment to LTE rollout Telstra has indicated a likely timeframe of 2013 and maximum theoretical downstream bandwidths of 172Mbps and above. However its LTE rollout plans and the maximum bandwidths available will be heavily dependent on future spectrum allocations.

Meanwhile it is continuing to be a pioneer in the deployment of the latest HSPA technologies, which require no additional spectrum. It was the first carrier in the world to rollout dual carrier HSPA+ in its network at the end of last year.

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This provides a theoretical downstream bandwidth of 42Mbps but at present there are no terminal devices able to take advantage of this. Telstra expects to have USB dongles on sale by mid year.

Beyond that it is planning to upgrade to HSPA+ with multiple antenna technology with a maximum downstream bandwidth of 84Mbps in 2011 168Mbps in 2012.

According To Telstra's executive director wireless, Mike Wright, users should experience bandwidths about one third of these theoretical maxima. "By the time you take into account radio paths network loads, the radio environment and overheads users generally get about a third of those speeds," Wright said.

Telstra has given an indicative timeframe of 2013 for commercial LTE services but Wright said. "What comes out our analysis of the trial data and our investment strategy will determine how quickly we rollout that LTE layer. It depends on what we find from the trials and the economics. We want to repeat the knowledge we had [from trials] when we came into Next G."

He said that Telstra's aim in pursuing higher HSPA bandwidths ahead of LTE was to meet growing demand for wireless broadband and ensure a smooth transition. "What we are aiming to do is to make the transition from HSPA to LTE seamless. The customer should neither know or care which they are using."

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He added: "We have seen data volumes doubling every eight months for the last two years. We have over 1.3 million data cards on the network and 70 percent of handsets are 3G. Despite this growth, we have been able to maintain network performance."

To support these higher bandwidths, and the rapid growth in mobile data traffic - doubling in volume every eight months, Telstra has invested heavily in backhauling its cellular base stations with fibre.

It claims to have base stations serving over 85 percent of the population on gigabit ethernet fibre links and to have more than five of the remaining 10 percent on unspecified "high speed" links (ethernet and multiple E1, 1Mbps links).

Telstra will carry out its LTE trials at 2.6Ghz and at 1.8GHz. Ultimately it expects to use the 2.6GHz spectrum and the 'Digital Dividend' spectrum at 700MHz for its commercial LTE service.

Wright said the two frequencies would be complementary. "We would see the digital dividend spectrum at 700MHz providing coverage and the higher 2.6GHz providing capacity [in metro areas]."

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