Digital Life


Better cellphone coverage with 700Mhz band

Telcos expect improved indoor and rural coverage, now that they can access the old analog TV bandwidth.

Telstra and Optus are testing newly available mobile broadband frequencies that could provide better indoor coverage and wider rural reach, after gaining access to the 700MHz band previously reserved for analog television broadcasts.

Telstra, Optus and TPG Internet collectively paid more than $2 billion for access to the 700MHz and 2.5GHz bands as part of the ‘‘Digital Dividend’’ spectrum auction, designed to reuse the analog television bands to deliver the next generation of high-speed mobile internet.

Telstra is preparing 700MHz trial sites in Mildura, Griffith, Mount Isa, Perth, Fremantle and Esperance. Optus, meanwhile,  is running 700MHz trials in Darwin and Perth. TPG Internet is yet to officially unveil plans for its 2.5GHz spectrum but currently relies on Optus’ mobile broadband network.

Telstra’s LTE-Advanced network currently supports the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, with trials under way to add 700MHz and 2.5GHz. Optus’ LTE network supports 1.8GHz and 2.3GHz, with plans to add 700MHz and 2.5GHz.

Transmitting on several bands simultaneously lets the networks deliver faster data speeds, potentially up to 450 megabits per second. The lower frequency of 700MHz radio waves can travel further and more easily penetrate solid objects such as walls, to help improve indoor and rural coverage.

Australia’s new 700MHz networks are expected to officially launch in 2015. To take advantage of the performance boost, customers will need a compatible device such as Samsung’s Galaxy S5 or HTC’s One (M8) phones, or else Huawei’s Advanced Pro X modem. More compatible devices are expected to arrive in Australia in the next 12 months, including LG’s G3 phone.

From January 1, 2015, wireless microphones operating between 694MHz and 820MHz will be banned, in order to prevent interference with the new mobile broadband services. Some of the country’s digital TV channels were also shifted earlier this year to clear the 700MHz band, requiring households to retune their digital television equipment.

Update: Third last par corrected.