Telstra announced plans to expand 4G coverage to cover 85 per cent of the Australian population by this Christmas.
At the end of June, the Telstra LTE network covered 66 per cent of the population with 2000 4G base stations. In the next six months, Telstra plans to add 200 regional towns to its 4G footprint, including several holiday hotspots, it said.
Telstra today revealed about 45 of the towns to be added. They include Batemans Bay, NSW; Colac, Vic; Biloela, Queensland; Berri, SA; Margaret River, WA; and Latrobe, Tasmania. Telstra said it could not reveal all 200 towns today because the telco is still finalising the new sites.
Ovum analyst Nicole McCormick said 85 per cent coverage will be a significant milestone.
"These sort of coverage numbers for LTE put Telstra in the ranks of other Asian telcos such as those from South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, that have reached nationwide LTE population coverage, across far smaller land masses," she said.
Telstra also revealed enhanced 4G capacity in capital cities as a result of restacking in the 1800MHz band.
Telstra now has 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and 15MHz contiguous spectrum in Sydney and Melbourne, it said. That puts Telstra on par with Vodafone Hutchison Australia in all but Sydney and Melbourne, where Vodafone has 20MHz.
More spectrum capacity means greater actual speeds for city-based customers, and it has been a point of competitive contention for telcos. Earlier today, it was revealed that Telstra sent a letter protesting Vodafone’s claims that it has faster 4G speeds in the capital cities.
At a media conference today in Sydney, Telstra chief operations officer Brendon Riley downplayed the dispute.
“Sometimes we exchange letters between one and other in the industry,” he said. “I think that will continue and I think generally there’s a pretty good sense of collaboration between us.”
However, Riley added, “We’ve got the fastest national 4G.”
Telstra has launched 33 4G devices since the LTE launch in 2011, with 27 of them currently for sale. Most of the devices in Telstra being purchased in Telstra stores now are 4G, said Telstra mobile executive director, Warwick Bray.
Telstra currently has 2.1 million 4G devices running on the network, and 4G traffic is growing at a rate of 23 per cent monthly, Riley said.
Telstra plans to deploy 4G antennas as a “capacity play” instead of adding more 3G antennas, he said. “We’re still seeing some 3G growth, but the rate of the growth is slowing pretty rapidly as 4G starts to take up.”
Telstra will continue investing in the 3G network, but more of its network investment will focus on 4G, he said.
Telstra spent $1.3 billion in April's Digital Dividend auction, taking most of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum available. The spectrum will be used for 4G but won’t be available until 2015.
Asked about the Police Federation seeking the remaining 700MHz spectrum that went unsold in the auction — which has been contested by association representing the mobile industry — Riley said Telstra was “very pleased with the amount of spectrum we got.”
Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam