3G Closure

Late last year we announced Telstra’s 3G Network (850Mhz band) will close in mid 2024. This presents an opportunity for Telstra Wholesale (TW) customers who are supported on TW’s Wholesale Mobile Evolution (WME) platform as we will work on expanding our 4G network capabilities to provide customers with the best possible experience. We are working towards expanding the 4G coverage footprint and providing 4G Voice calling (also known as VoLTE).   We are working towards expanding the 4G network to a similar size and reach as our 3G network so our customers and the communities they live in are not disadvantaged.

 

Telstra is repurposing some of its 850Mhz Spectrum for 5G, however there should be no material detriment to 3G voice calls. There may be some minor impacts to data speeds for 3G only capable devices in some areas.  4G data speeds will not be impacted. Telstra will continue to monitor the network and manage capacity as required in response to changes in demand.

 

A list of Telstra Wholesale products that will be impacted by the 3G exit is provided in the below appendix.

3g closure

As a result of this change, you may have customers on the Telstra Wholesale network using 3G only or non-VoLTE capable 4G devices, you will need to transition them to a device that operates on our newer technologies.  We acknowledge a change like this has an impact on you, which is why we are letting you know about the switch off at least four and-a-half years before it takes place.   We will work with you over this long lead time to make sure the transition to newer technologies is as seamless as possible.

We will keep you updated as we enable VoLTE (4G calling) for Wholesale in advance of the exit date and as we upgrade 4G coverage areas for Wholesale.  Where requested, we will provide you with information that will enable you to manage your customers transition to a device that operates on our newer technologies.

 

We are expanding the 4G network capabilities for TW customers supported on Telstra’s Wholesale Mobile Evolution (WME) platform. 

 

4G Coverage – We will upgrade 3G only areas in the Telstra Wholesale footprint to 4G.  Wholesale customers will experience materially the same coverage post the 3G switch-off that they do today.

4G Voice Calling – To ensure we minimise impact, we will be enabling VoLTE (4G calling) for Wholesale in advance of the exit date.

 

Your customer devices may be impacted.

After the 3G exit, 3G only devices will not work on 4G networks and devices without VoLTE (4G calling) will not be able to make voice calls.

We will work with you around any concerns about changing devices or technology types to be ready for the change.   Where requested we will provide you with information about your customers on the Telstra Wholesale network who may be using a 3G only or non-VoLTE capable 4G devices. This will enable you to contact your customers as needed to assist them to upgrade to a device that operates on our newer technologies.

Most customers will generally notice an improvement in speed. In many cases, the improvement in speeds in going to 4G will be substantial, but in some areas, particularly very remote areas, the improvement may only be slight and possibly not noticeable.  But our network performance will not go backwards.  We are currently working to assess all areas with 3G only coverage so we can provide our customers with the best possible experience.  

 

Will 3G be switched off at one time or will it be a phased approach (geographically)?  

It will all be switched off within a reasonably short period of time. While it’s not quite as simple as flicking a switch, closure will happen relatively quickly after the exit date over the course of one to two weeks in mid 2024.

We are working towards expanding the 4G network so its coverage is materially the same as 3G coverage today. We know maintaining existing coverage is important for your customers and the communities they live in, and visitors to regional areas, so that why we’ve made our 4G coverage commitments. 

 

We use the term ‘materially the same’ instead of ‘exactly the same’ when it comes to coverage as there are several variables which influence the coverage delivered by different mobile technologies at mobile sites. These include the spectrum (frequencies) used, the types of antenna and their placement and the quality of the mobile phone or device (some devices have better reception than others). Geography and topography also influence coverage.

 

Overall we are confident that areas that have 3G coverage today will have 4G coverage before June 2024, but it is possible there will be some coverage variation at edges of our network, as the coverage fringe might be extended in some areas and reduced in others. For example, if a section of a highway has 3G coverage today it will have 4G coverage before closure. What we can’t guarantee is that this matching will be achieved at every kilometre of the highway, but the vast majority should be covered. Conversely it is possible that there will be locations that may end up with coverage on 4G that they never had with 3G. Thus ‘materially the same’ is the best way we can frame our intention to match existing 3G with 4G while also recognising that the inherent variability of wireless technology will always mean coverage footprints can’t be identical.

 

Our 3G network will continue to be operational until the 30th of June, 2024.  

Telstra’s 4G coverage is already greater than our 2G coverage. Our commitment is that 4G coverage will be similar to our current 3G coverage by the 30th of June 2024. As both network and device technologies have progressed significantly from the days of CDMA and 2G customer experiences are better than they have ever been, and this will continue to improve as 4G network expansion progresses.

The quality of coverage following the closure of our 3G network will be at least equivalent, and in most cases superior to our current 3G coverage. 4G is capable of providing faster speeds (where backhaul capacity is available).

Spectrum bands vary in terms of their propagation capabilities (i.e. how far they travel) and the bandwidth which is available for use by mobile operators. Our 3G network uses 850MHz spectrum while the primary band for our 4G network is 700 MHz. Both 700 MHz and 850 MHz are known as ‘low band’ spectrum and they have better propagation than ‘medium’ and ‘high’ band spectrum. The propagation of 700 MHz is slightly better than that of 850 MHz, and as 700 MHz will be used for our 4G network expansion we do not anticipate there being any material changes in coverage due to the change in spectrum used. Where minor variations in coverage do occur these would likely be at the fringes of our network, and attributable to variations in antenna types, their precise placement and direction and device-specific differences in radio sensitivity. It is also possible that in transitioning from 3G to 4G there will be locations that may end up with coverage on 4G that they never had with 3G.

5G is still in the early phases of implementation in the Australian and international markets.  Telstra Wholesale is assessing 5G and will share information when it becomes available.  Telstra will continue to support its wholesale customers by providing a competitive product offering in the Australian Mobility market.

We will support you through the transition

We want to work with you to ensure you are supported during the exit of our 3G network. We will be providing regular updates to our Wholesale customers from now until the closure in mid 2024.

We are here to ensure you have as much support as you require from Telstra Wholesale and we will assist you in any transition required.