A smaller, lower-cost version of a standard mobile base station, Telstra's new 4GX-lite satellite small-cell "gives customers access to Telstra’s 4GX-lite service which delivers most of the benefits of Telstra's 4GX service including voice calls, text, email, browsing and basic data, although due to constraints with the satellite backhaul it is not intended to support data heavy applications, like high definition video streaming or video calling and conferencing".
It is billed as having been "built with a flexible design so that it can meet the varied needs of these remote communities, benefitting various customers from rural farmers and mining companies to local councils who want to bring mobile coverage to new areas.
Mike Wright, Group managing director of Networks, said the Satellite Small Cell was an "exciting new option for communities and businesses looking to get access to mobile coverage and overcome the challenges of providing mobile coverage to very remote locations".
“We offer options, such as Yagi antennas and the Telstra Go Repeater, for customers in regional areas looking to extend coverage, but until now there hasn’t been many options for people looking for coverage where none exists nearby. The Satellite Smart Cell helps solve that problem.
“For example, a local council may want to bring mobile coverage to a particular remote tourist attraction to help boost visitor numbers through social media posts, whilst an agricultural business may want to enhance worker safety by giving people the ability to connect with each other if issues arise. The Satellite Small Cell reduces the cost of gaining access to new coverage from hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new base station to tens of thousands, making it a realistic proposition in these circumstances.
“We’ve been running satellite cells for many years and have conducted successful trials of this innovative solution over the last 12 months at five sites. We’ll have a total of 16 Telstra trial sites on air by July.”
So, who is the first customer?
While Telstra aims to deliver up to 500 Satellite Small Cells over the next three years, and is discussing the opportunity to deploy this technology with a number of organisations and customers, its first customer is already on board.
He is Winton Shire Council Mayor, Gavin Baskett, who said the Satellite Small Cell solution is "innovative in its approach in that it provides people with the ability to identify where they need mobile coverage and then to work with Telstra to deliver it".
Baskett said: “It’s given us more control. We’ll be using the Satellite Small Cell to bring coverage to some parts of the Winton shire for the first time and to help grow tourism in the area.
“We’re a remote area, driven by rural industry and tourism – all industries where mobile coverage can provide so much in terms of innovation, connectivity and safety. We look forward to getting our two Satellite Small Cells installed and operational so we can connect our people.”
How is the Satellite Small Cell funded?
The Satellite Small Cell is "funded by co-contributions from Telstra and the customer, where the customer pays an initial amount to cover the cost of installation and Telstra builds and maintains the small cell".
Wright added: “The Telstra 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell is a way to bridge the gap between what customers want and what is financially viable. This solution gives consumers, businesses and local councils more control over where they can get mobile coverage, making them part of the decision making process.
“We’ll continue to look for innovative ways to expand our network across the country so that all Australians can have access to the latest technology and stay connected to the things they love.”
Telstra says its 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell "can be installed in most areas of Australia beyond the reach of our existing coverage footprint. Telstra will visit the customer to discuss their needs and the best location for the small cell".
"The launch of the Telstra 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell builds on Telstra’s successful contribution to improving coverage for all Australians and provides a useful complement to the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, which has so far seen mobile coverage extended to more than 170,000 square kilometres of country Australia."
Here are some facts about the Telstra 4GX-lite Mobile Satellite Small Cell as shared by the company:
- This product is only available where there is no existing Telstra mobile coverage.
- It is suited to small rural and remote communities such as tourism hotspots, remote roadhouses, mines and centres of agri-business.
- The small cell will be on a standalone platform or attached to an existing building on the customer’s land, provided by the customer at no cost to Telstra.
- In most cases, the customer will provide mains power for the small cell at no on-going cost to Telstra (single 10 amp circuit required). Options can be tailored to meet the customer’s budget.
- Telstra provides and installs all the necessary equipment, with the cost of installation payable by the customer.
- Coverage is provided via Telstra’s 4GX 700 MHz band.
- Voice calls will require compatible 4GX devices