Telstra Sets Path to 5G Through 4G Upgrade

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
2/22/2016

BARCELONA -- Executives from Australia's Telstra told a briefing in Barcelona on Sunday that the planned hike in LTE peak data rates, the deployment of Ericsson's telecom cloud and the rollout of LTE Broadcast services would help prepare for 5G as well as improve 4G performance.

Mike Wright, group managing director networks, said Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) will offer up to 1 Gbit/s in downtown areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane over the coming year, using a combination of 20MHz triple carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM.

"It isn't really about delivering one person-1Gbit/s. It's about lots of users using these devices... and using the network efficiently," he said.

The company has worked with Netgear to develop its first 1Gbit/s product, a mobile gateway that can support up to 20 users. It will be the first commercial product based on Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s gigabit Snapdragon LTE chipset, and likely the first Cat 16 product to be launched globally.

Telstra's planned deployment of Ericsson's telecom cloud stack is also the first by any operator. The Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) cloud stack is based on OPNFV architecture and includes virtual EPC and IMS and an OpenStack-based virtualization layer. (See Ericsson, Amazon Web Services Get Jiggy.)

It will also provide the operator with a 5G-ready core and help the network scale as IoT adoption increases. Wright said it would support the ability to service verticals by enabling network slicing, providing "all sorts of learnings."

The higher bandwidth and the virtualization capabilities will also aid Telstra in testing out some early 5G functions during the Commonwealth Games, which will be held on the Gold Coast in 2018, Wright said.

He said there had been "a lot of talk" about different 5G use cases but insisted the big difference with earlier mobile standards -- which were all about increasing throughput -- is that 5G would support multiple applications in very different environments.

"So getting our network and architecture right for that world is really our plan over the next few years," Wright said.


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Telstra's one direct contribution to the standard would be in the radio propagation side. It plans to send some of its research teams to Sweden to work with Ericsson on the radio interface.

"That's particularly important for Australia where we cover such large distances. Hopefully that modelling will come back and be injected in the 5G standard," he said.

The other initiative is the introduction of LTE Broadcast. Wright said its role would go far beyond the extreme use cases of busy stadiums. Telstra saw a "huge range" of other capabilities, such as the ability to pre-load content overnight so it is ready for the user in the morning.

It also could be deployed for mass software updates for devices, which often spark a huge amount of network traffic.

Wright said Telstra would be showcasing some pre-load demos at the congress this week for what it calls "a media-optimized" network.

"We are trying to think of how do we make our network the most compatible with video and media of the future. That's the fundamental behind LTE Broadcast," he said.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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