Australia’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, Telstra, has reportedly entered into negotiations with mobile resellers regarding the possibility of opening up its 850MHz 3G infrastructure, known as the ‘Next G’ network, for wholesale opportunities early in 2012. According to iTnews, citing unnamed sources, Telstra is believed to have approached a number of potential mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partners with a view to sounding out interest in such a venture, despite having previously waited for such parties to come to it. It is also understood that Telstra is still examining the types of wholesale service that could be offered to potential resellers, including whether both pre- and post-paid options would be made available. While a Telstra spokesman cited in the report refused to confirm or deny the development, it was noted that Telstra has ‘always said that [it] would consider wholesaling Next G if it was commercially viable to do so’.
One suggestion is that Telstra may open up the Next G network for wholesale once it has completed a migration to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology; as noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in July 2010 the incumbent claimed that it was conducting the first Australian trials of LTE using the 1800MHz spectrum band in partnership with Huawei, with the pilot taking place in Victoria, before it announced in November 2010 that it had made the country’s first inter-capital LTE connection with the successful test of a high quality video link between Sydney and Melbourne. Formal plans for a commercial LTE launch arrived in February 2011, when Telstra announced it would upgrade its Next G infrastructure with fourth-generation technology by the end of 2011, with Ericsson, Qualcomm and Sierra Wireless all named as partners for the upgrade project. It plans to integrate LTE in the central business districts of all state capitals and selected regional centres by the end of the year, utilising its existing 1800MHz spectrum in order to ‘bring 4G to areas where traffic demand is most concentrated’.