Telstra Vantage 2019: 5G Down Under

  • Sees proliferation of IoT and low-latency, high-volume use cases to drive enterprise market
  • A possible market segment for 5G is simply as an alternative to fibre for Internet access


Telstra Vantage 2019: 5G Down Under


“ONCE in every decade or so, there is enough innovation to justify coalescence and bringing together of all of the innovation to create the next standard in mobile technology,” said Andy Penn (pic, above), Telstra chief executive, during the keynote at Telstra Vantage 2019 in Melbourne.

This was Telstra’s affirmation that 5G is the future, and the Australian telecommunications giant is determined to play a leading role in shaping it. Having already locked in a foothold by establishing Australia’s first 5G site, they anticipate there will be enough demand to grow in 12 month's time  from the current 10 cities with 320 mobile sites, to one of 35 cities with 1,600 mobile sites.

As a result, Telstra’s strategies in their home country will offer telco providers in other countries insights on how to position 5G rollouts in their respective markets.

Enterprise driven by IoT, consumers driven by gadgets

"We're seeing a lot of interest and excitement from our enterprise customers," said Penn, before unveiling a two-pronged plan to woo the market to switch over.

On the one hand, there is a vast and growing appetite for IoT devices in the country. "As we get better coverage and 5G around the country you'll see more and more IoT devices being developed," pointed out Michael Ebeid (pic, below), Telstra Enterprise group executive.


Telstra Vantage 2019: 5G Down Under


As it is, there are currently 3.2 million IoT devices in Australia connected to Telstra, with around two thousand new devices being connected each day. They are serviced by an existing network (currently mostly using 4G) covering 3.5 million square kilometres.

Meanwhile, 5G also makes possible certain applications that can only exist because of the high-volume, low-latency performance promised by technology. "When you then take it to sectors, industries and use cases where milliseconds count... we can really take it to a whole new level," said Ebeid, giving examples like remote medical surgery, and using autonomous vehicles in mines.

In certain cases, it may even form the basis for local area networks. "Some of the use cases in robotics and automation are going to require the low latency that 5G is going to deliver," said Penn. “It might make more sense to wire it up with 5G than to use Wifi.”

As for the consumer market, Andy Penn believes that people will choose to upgrade their devices to one compatible with 5G. "Why wouldn't you?", he asked.

In fact, Telstra's strategy for the consumer market is to work with handphone manufacturers who promote it as a must-have technology in their latest must-have phones. As it is, there are already tens of thousands of 5G-capable handsets in the country, and even if the current generation of phones are a little heavier and hotter than their brethren (thanks to the need for a larger battery), things will soon improve.

"By the end of this year we'll have second generation chips and handsets, and like all technology, it's going to come down (in price)."

Local rollouts and foreign markets

Another possible market segment for 5G is simply to be an alternative to fibre when it comes to Internet access. Current prices for internet access over fibre in Australia, range from around A$60 (approx RM170) for 25Mbps to about A$90 (approx RM250) for 100Mbps.

The on-going rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is a government-led effort to ensure all Australians can access the Internet. Nevertheless, not everyone sees fibre as a must-have.

"For the last 15 years, the number of people in Australia that choose to go mobile only and not have a fixed line service has been increasing," said Penn. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Communications report 2017–18 notes that a decrease of 4% in fixed-line services was matched by a similar increase in mobile services.

Telstra also hopes to leverage on their experience and expertise in 5G to overseas markets, having already established partnerships with the companies in major markets such as the US and Japan.  "There's no reason why we won't be partnering with others in 5G," said Penn. "It'll be a natural evolution."

"We happen to be amongst the leaders, and amongst the first - but then we always have"


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