Telstra outlines plans for its ‘network of the future’

5G, IoT and a boost to the capacity of optical fibre links are among the initiatives outlined by Telstra at Mobile World Congress

Telstra has used Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the venue for unveiling major infrastructure initiatives as part of its “network of the future” program.

The telco’s CEO, Andy Penn, said in August during a briefing on FY16 results that Telstra would boost its capital expenditure by $3 billion over the next three years, lifting its capex to sales ratio to approximately 18 per cent.

“We will be investing in three critical areas of importance to our customers,” Penn said. We will be investing in the network of the future which is the foundation of the program, we will be investing in accelerating the digitisation of our business and, ultimately, this will all lead to us investing in improving the customer experience that we provide.”

The CEO flagged an increased focus on software-defined networking architecture “to build a more programmable and flexible network that we can scale easier at lower cost”.

At last year’s Mobile World Congress, Ericsson revealed that it would roll out a “full stack telecom cloud solution” for the telco, giving Telstra a flexible, programmable core network.

In Barcelona over the weekend in conjunction with Ericsson, Telstra offered new details of its planned network investment.

Telstra said that it had conducted the first video call over a virtualised network function — the enhanced Packed Gateway (EPG) — and planned to expand its telco cloud deployment, including a media-optimised cloud for carrying broadcast content (the telco has its own broadcast operations centre).

Optical fibre overhaul

Ericsson has won a three-year contract with Telstra that will see it upgrade the telco’s optical fibre networks to boost capacity, allowing it deliver speeds between 400 gigabits per second and 1 terabit per second across optical links.

“This significant optical program will be the platform to underpin our Network of the Future transformation plans,” Telstra Operations director, transport and routing engineering, David Robertson, said in a statement.

“It will have the resiliency, speed and security to meet expected traffic growth, deliver critical IoT and 5G traffic, along with cloud and media services.

“Work has commenced to transform our network to increase its value to business as they shift IT into the cloud, improve productivity and efficiency with mobility, store and process business critical data in the cloud, and apply machine learning to solve complex challenges, while ensuring regional Australians enjoy the same experience as those in our major cities.”

Internet of Things

Telstra also revealed that it had completed the rollout of Ericsson’s Massive IoT network software, with the telco testing what it says will be one of the world’s largest Cat-M1 LTE networks.

Telstra in February last year announced that it had enabled support for Category 1 devices on its LTE network. Cat 1 LTE is intended for connecting ultra-low-power IoT devices and supports maximum data transfer rates of up to 10/5Mbps.

Telstra said that it has commenced testing Cat-M1 functionality on its network in parts of Melbourne and Tasmania. “Telstra’s 4GX network is one of the most advanced and largest 4G networks in the world,” Telstra group managing director, networks, Mike Wright, said in a statement.

“Building Cat-M1 services for IoT using the scale and standardization of the 3GPP roadmap allows the rapid rollout of Cat-M1 through a new network software activation and provides the ideal platform for a proliferation of IoT devices and applications. It is expected that Cat-M1 devices will be available in Australia in 2017 and therefore our network readiness is essential.

“Cat-M1 meets the demands of LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) IoT applications. Advantages include low cost, low power consumption, deep coverage, massive numbers of connections, and high reliability of transmission. Cat-M1 can enhance LTE coverage for underground and in-building areas that challenge existing coverage. Combined with Telstra’s existing leading LTE coverage, customers can deploy a range of near real time applications in logistics, utilities, medicine, transport, mining, agriculture, manufacturing and many more.”

5G

Telstra announced that in collaboration with Qualcomm and Ericsson it will conduct field trials based on the 5G New Radio (NR) specifications being developed by 3GPP.

The telco said it the trials would involve the use of millimetre Wave (mmWave) and mid-band spectrum technologies.

“This development is a big step forward in 5G readiness,” Wright said. “In addition to the ongoing growth in data consumption, customers are starting to use applications that use more data (e.g. virtual reality) and also require lower latency, for example critical industrial and medical applications such as remote surgery.

“This collaboration between Telstra, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will help ensure 5G is ready for the Australian environment, including making sure it is able to be scaled up for our vast distance and sparse population, as well as ensuring our customers will be among the first in the world to enjoy the benefits of 5G.”

Telstra and Ericsson in September conducted the first public demonstration in Australia of 5G technologies.

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Tags Ericsson3GPPnetwork functions virtualisation (NFV)Networking5Gqualcomm5G New Radio (NR)TelecommunicationsTelstravirtualization4gmobilitysoftware-defined networking (SDN)

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