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Australia - Mobile Communications - 3G and 4G Infrastructure

Australia - Mobile Communications - 3G and 4G Infrastructure

The three MNOs in Australia deployed 3G networks as early as the 1990s though it was not until the mid-2000s that 3G mobile networks started to be built in earnest. This was followed by a rapid take-up of 3G among consumers as they migrated from 2G networks. The development of 3G technologies enabled the mobile operators to offer high-bandwidth services such as video calling. Competition among operators has encouraged lower pricing and, combined with the greater availability of inexpensive devices and the geographic expansion of upgraded networks, this has allowed mobile broadband to take off. In line with the migration of 3G, operators such as Telstra plan to discontinue 2G-based networks are repurpose spectrum, for 3G and 4G use. Nevertheless, 2G retains a use in specific areas such as M2M applications.

Just as 3G grew to dominate the mobile landscape, so is its dominance now fast fading as LTE networks gain headway and consumers migrate to the new technology. By mid-2015 Vodafone provided 90% metro population coverage with its LTE infrastructure, while both Optus and Telstra provide about 90% population coverage as they each continue to ramp up to 98% coverage by the end of 2016. Already, up to 80% of all new smartphones sold are LTE-capable. Just as 3G saw the migration of a large proportion of subscribers from the older 2G GSM networks, the near comprehensive reach of LTE expected by the end of 2016 will see a growing proportion of subscribers using LTE-based services. This will be facilitated by competitive pressure for operators to lower prices and to increase data allowances on packages.

This report provides high-level information on 3G and LTE networks in Australia, as well as an analysis of infrastructure issues.

Key developments:

Crown Castle sold to Macquarie consortium for $2 billion; NBN trials providing backhaul to MNOs; Telstra delivers 450Mb/s in LTE trials; 2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, HSPA, UMTS, WCDMA.

Companies mentioned in this report include:

Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Hutchinson, VHA, Crown Castle Agile, iiNet.


1. Synopsis
2. Background information
3. Network operators
3.1 Telstra
3.1.1 Background information
3.1.2 Telstra HSPA and LTE
3.1.3 2100MHz network closed
3.2 Optus
3.2.1 Background information
3.2.2 Network speeds and coverage
3.2.3 Co-sharing agreement sees network expansion
3.3 VHA
3.3.1 Background information
3.3.2 Merged operations
3.3.3 New network upgrades
4. Mobile sites infrastructure
4.1 Overview and statistics
4.2 Crown Castle
5. Infrastructure analysis
5.1 Structural separation and open networks
5.2 Squeezed out of the content markets
5.3 Mobile broadband market
5.4 Triple challenge of network transformation
5.5 NBN for mobile tower backhaul
6. Long-term evolution (LTE) (separate report)
7. Related reports
Table 1 Mobile base stations 2009; 2011 - 2015
Table 2 Crown Castle mobile tower acquisitions

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