In January 2007 Optus began the rollout of a 3G High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network upgrade. The new network would replicate the coverage of Optus’ existing GSM (2G) national mobile network.
Optus would own the new network without joint ownership by Vodafone or other partners, but would continue to jointly own and operate its existing 3G network in metropolitan areas with Vodafone.
The rollout was to be completed by network vendors Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks, and Huawei.
Optus has used the 2100MHz band in capital cities for the High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) rollout, and would use a mix of 2100MHz and 900MHz for the next 18% of the population. The 900MHz range is primarily used in rural and regional Australia. Unlike Telstra’s Next G service, the network is wholesaled.
Optus’ partners on its HSPA solution are Nokia, Option and Huawei. Optus customers initially will experience download speeds averaging 500Kb/s to 1.5Mb/s and network capability of up to 3.6Mb/s. By mid-2008 the network was being upgraded to deliver broadband speeds of up to 7.2Mb/s.
Optus believes saving over $300 million are achievable rolling out its 900MHz 3G network to regional Australia.
Optus’ initial plan was to expand its footprint outside of metropolitan areas to rural and regional Australia to around 96% of the population by the end of 2008. The network was to support 2,000 to 2,500 base stations over 7,500 sq km in 2007.
However, in May 2008 Optus announced that it would extend coverage further to reach 98% of the population in a $315 million program.
By late 2008 Optus completed its 3G mobile network rollout on schedule to reach 96% population coverage. Optus continues to invest in transmission, backhaul capacity and additional mobile site coverage. Coverage would be extended to 98% of the population with the network footprint exceeding 97 % coverage by early 2012.
This brings Optus’ total 3G investment to nearly $1 billion. At least 750 new base stations would be added, extending Optus’ mobile network coverage by 400,000 square kilometres to a total network coverage of more than one million square kilometres. The network would extend the footprint to reach areas including Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia and Tumby in South Australia, through to Weipa in far north Queensland. Optus will be aiming to take some of Telstra’s 55% market share in the rural and regional markets with its new expansion plans. Optus also believes that the expansion would make the carrier more appealing to metropolitan users who need national coverage.
A summary of Optus’ 3G HSPA rollout progress is as follows:
- network rollout began in January 2007;
- by June 2007 the first stage of its network upgrade had been completed, with 55% national coverage;
- by the end of 2007 Optus’ network reached 60% of the population;
- by January 2008, the network covered Wollongong and the greater Illawarra region;
- Optus hit its target of 80% coverage by 30 June 2008;
- by July 2008 Optus had upgraded all its mobile sites in Darwin and launched its 3G service there. It was also planning to build extra sites to expand its 3G coverage in Moil, Malak, Charles Darwin Uni, Ludmilla and Darwin CBD West in the third-quarter of 2008.
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