Telstra, which controls Australia’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, Telstra Mobile, has outlined plans for its network once an infrastructure agreement originally signed with Hutchison 3G Australia (H3G) comes to an end next year. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2004 Telstra bought an equal share in the W-CDMA network of rival H3G, enabling it to launch high speed mobile services without the initial costs associated with building its own network. However, with H3G now part of Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), a joint venture with Vodafone Australia, in October 2010 Telstra revealed it had agreed to shut down the 3G mobile spectrum joint venture, with a nominal end date for the partnership set as 31 August 2012; this may be brought forward to a date from 1 January 2012 if certain conditions are met.
According to TheAge.com.au, Telstra has confirmed that the 2100MHz metro networks shared by the two cellcos will be decommissioned in 2012, with the assets to be shared between Telstra and VHA. Telstra has said that it does not expect those of its customers using a 850MHz-compatible mobile handset to be affected – the cellco’s 3.5G ‘NextG’ network operates on that frequency – but has said that those subscribers still relying on the 2100MHz spectrum band may need to upgrade their phone. That said, the report cites Max Jennings, Telstra’s director of wireless, as saying that his company has not sold a non-850MHz compatible handset since 2007, and as such it is expected that the percentage of customers that will be impacted by the network changes will be minimal. While Telstra has reportedly been expanding its own coverage in the 2100MHz band across metro areas, and despite the fact that some of the equipment being used for the Telstra/H3G joint infrastructure will be redeployed as part of the NextG network, Telstra is recommending that customers upgrade to a mobile device compatible with services offered over the 850MHz band.