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Telstra CDMA2000 Network, Australia




Key Data


Telstra is the main telecoms provider in Australia. The company is mostly owned by the Australian government who in 2006 have just launched a campaign to sell a third lot of Telstra shares for around AUS$8bn. This will still leave them holding 51.8% of the company. Telstra still have a near monopoly in the voice and data market in Australia for both land lines and mobile telecommunications.

Because of this, and various attempts at price fixing, the company is currently in trouble with the Australian telecoms regulator and the Australian government. Following the success of their 3G CDMA network in 1999–2000 the network is now set to be updated to HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) over the next year.

TRANSFER TO CDMA

Telstra first introduced high-speed data transmission across its code division multiple access (CDMA) network in August 1999. The network was installed by Nortel Networks in a contract worth $300m. As the network was completed, subscribers were moved across from the older analogue AMPS network, which was switched off in stages. The AMPS service was closed in the five major capital cities and in 130 non-metropolitan sites on 31 December 1999. No new base station sites were needed for the new service and all antennas were located on existing AMPS or GSM sites.

"By December 2004 Telstra's entire Data Tac mobile network had been migrated to CDMA."

There were major concerns in Australia over whether CDMA would be an adequate replacement for the AMPS service, which covered 93% of the population. However, Telstra expanded the digital network to cover 1.3 million km2, approximately a sixth of the total land mass of Australia, at a cost of US$19.6m. Nortel's long-range base stations that use QualComm's standard chip-set were developed especially for the network.

By December 2004 Telstra's entire Data Tac mobile network had been migrated to CDMA. This move included around 30,000 services including the Australian taxicab’s EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) and the security and dispatch industries. The move was effective in reducing network and maintenance costs for Telstra.

THE NETWORK

The Telstra CDMA network was primarily aimed at the voice market and it is currently switching all its analogue subscribers over without losing any to rival GSM operators. However, it was constructed with data traffic in mind for the future, and trials of Nortel Networks' CDMA2000 1XRTT high-speed data technology were started in mid-2000. The trials included the verification of data throughput, speed, coverage impacts and potential applications in a live network configuration, as well as the testing of high-speed data, data applications including web browsing, m-commerce (mobile commerce) and enhanced voice capacity.

The 1XRTT specification for high-speed data transmission was 144Kbps (this is now actually quite slow for 3G). The system later adopted was based on Nortel Networks’ CDMA Metro Cell base stations and 1XRTT voice- and data-terminals from Samsung.

MULTI-PROTOCOL LABEL SWITCHING

Telstra made a decision in November 2005 to invest in a next generation internet protocol (IP) multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network. Telstra announced the infrastructure investment as part of a wide-ranging strategy review conducted by the company’s chief executive Sol Trujillo. The upgrade will cost an estimated AU$10bn over the next five years, and is due to be in place by the end of 2007. Multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) is a data-carrying mechanism which emulates some properties of a circuit-switched network over a packet-switched network.

HSDPA FOR TELSTRA

"Telstra is one of the few operators in the world to have committed to a wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) 3G network at this frequency and critics have been predicting limited choice, and high cost, of terminal devices."

In August 2006 Telstra announced the upgrade of its network to HSDPA. However, there was some concern over the fact that in the timescale of upgrade there were not enough HSDPA devices on the market in Australia for customers to upgrade to. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) in Australia reported that there were 16 devices on the market to support HSDPA at 850MHz, the operating frequency of Telstra’s CDMA replacement 3G network.

Telstra is one of the few operators in the world to have committed to a wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) 3G network at this frequency and critics have been predicting limited choice, and high cost, of terminal devices. HSDPA is now recognised as the baseline for 3G for the full mobile broadband experience. The new Telstra HSDPA platform, the NEXT G mobile service, should provide fairly respectable ADSL-like speeds to individual users (probably around 1–4Mbit/s in many areas depending how far from a base station the subscriber is situated). Peak speeds will be 14Mbit/s (according to the Release 6 3GPP standards). Telstra HSDPA will be launched in early 2007.

BROADBAND ACCESS

Internode, Macquarie, Optus, PowerTel, Primus, Soul and TransACT voiced concern in April 2006 about Telstra's plans for Australia's broadband network; the company plans to invest in five major cities serving some four million homes and businesses. But rivals say this will "divide Australia into the digital haves and have-nots", with less than half of all phone lines able to receive the new high speed services. Telstra also wants to be given something in return for its investment and rivals are concerned that this will mean restricting competition and higher prices for end users.

Rival operators are putting together a plan that would pool resources and provide a 'collective investment in an open access network' that could be used by all broadband providers. Telstra has already rubbished the proposals. Early in August 2006 Telstra scrapped plans for a new fibre network and bemoaned regulators’ lack of understanding of "the actual costs that Telstra incurs in providing its services and, especially, the costs it incurs in providing services to rural, regional, and remote Australia."