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Telstra Cranks Up CDMA

Australia’s Telstra Corp. has become the latest major carrier to jump aboard the CDMA2000 1xEV-DO (Evolution, Data Only) bandwagon.

The company is set to invest $100 million in upgrading its CDMA2000 1x service, launched to consumers in March 2003 (see Telstra Launches 1X Services).

EV-DO networks crank up the data rate to a theoretical 2 Mbit/s, but offer between 300 and 500 kbit/s in the real world. This is at least five times faster than most current cellular networks (e.g., CDMA2000 1xRTT and GPRS -- see A Wireless Taxonomy for more detailed definitions).

According to a report in The Australian, the rollout will initially target “capital cities and selected regional areas.”

Telstra spokesman Graeme Salt confirms the accuracy of the report but is unable to divulge further details. “We are giving no more information beyond the article you mention,” he tells Unstrung.

The company is Australia’s largest wireless carrier by subscriber numbers. Research firm EMC claims Telstra can boast a total customer base of 6,985,000 as of December 2003, the majority of which are housed on the carrier’s Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications network (6.139 million).

In the CDMA space, Telstra has 846,000 subscribers, ahead of the 325,180 touted by Hutchison Telecoms (Australia) Ltd..

Despite the potentially small customer base for Telstra’s EV-DO network, the rollout reinforces ongoing global commitment to the technology.

Verizon Wireless and Alaska Communications Systems Inc. (ACS) have both committed to the 3G standard in North America, while KDDI Corp., SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), and KT Freetel Co. are flying the EV-DO flag in Asia (see EV-DO Hits Alaska, Verizon Repeats on 3G, Qualcomm Congratulates KDDI, KTF to Distribute BREW Apps and High-Speed CDMA Rocks Korea).

Equipment vendor Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) appears the most likely financial beneficiary of Telstra’s upgrade, in light of its status as primary supplier to the carrier’s CDMA20000 1x network (see Telstra Goes 1x With Nortel).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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