Will Telstra’s 900MHz 4G Mean Everyone Needs New Devices?

Will Telstra’s 900MHz 4G Mean Everyone Needs New Devices?

Telstra is planning to introduce a 900MHz version of Next G to help it expand its 4G network in regional areas. Will that be enough to help it maintain decent 4G speeds, and will you need a new device to use it? The short answer: probably yes for your phone, possibly no for your mobile broadband.

The current Telstra 4G network, which was introduced in September 2011, uses 1800MHz spectrum. It has 1.5 million customers, which is good commercially for Telstra but does mean that speeds for most customers are gradually falling. Hence the need for change.

Telstra COO Brendon Riley announced the plans for the new 900MHz extension in Sydney this morning, ahead of an official launch at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. To cope with increasing data demand, Telstra plans to refarm 900MHz spectrum currently being used for its older 2G network. That won’t happen on a nationwide basis, with the first targets being city and regional areas which currently don’t have solid coverage.

Initial testing of the 900MHz network has taken place north of Brisbane at Redcliffe, Bribie and Woodford. Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs, Warrnambool, Mount Isa and Nowra are expected to be amongst the first to see the 900MHz service when it rolls out later this year. “This isn’t necessarily a mass deployment; it’s a deployment where it makes sense for those users,” said Mike Wright, Telstra executive director, networks and access technologies.

To access that 900MHz service, you’ll need a compatible device. Right now, only the Nokia 920 is ready to access that network out of the box. It will also be an option with the Sony Xperia Z and the BlackBerry Z10, which Telstra will launch in the first half of this year.

The news is a little better for mobile broadband. Telstra is working on firmware upgrades for its “most popular” hotspots and dongles to enable 900MHz access, and aims to release those by mid-year. Postpaid devices are likely to receive upgrades faster than cheaper prepaid ones, and not every single device will receive an upgrade. The forthcoming Cat 4 broadband devices which Telstra announced last week will also support the 900MHz frequency.

Right now, Telstra’s 4G network covers around 40 per cent of the Australian population. By mid-year, that figure will rise to two-thirds. According to Telstra, it expects as much data to be consumed on its networks in 2013 as in 2012 and 2011 combined. “This year we’re going to erect an additional 1000 4G base stations which will help us underpin what we need to do with LTE with more to come next year,” Riley said.

Telstra is also running trials of LTE-Advanced (which combines 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum) and LTE-Broadcast, which enables more efficient broadcasting of video content when multiple phone users are watching the same live stream. However, those are unlikely to be seen in actual products available to customers until at least the end of the year.

The refarming doesn’t mean the 2G network itself is disappearing. Telstra doesn’t sell any 2G devices itself and says 2G access is only a small percentage of customers, but it has no announced timeframe for switching the network off.


  • I was tempted to upgrade to 4G but when I heard that it wasn’t 900MHz I decided to hold off and glad I did.

    Problem is Telstra over charge for NextG Data so any network upgrades only have a medi core impact.

    • I pray not. Lower frequencies are fine for the bush as they travel further. In the cities you want high frequencies and more cells. Otherwise you end up with one million people all sharing the same 100MB/sec bandwidth. It would be so slow the old 300 basic modems would seem like race cars

      • They just town down the power on the cells so they service a smaller area and install more of them like you would with a higher frequency band. The lower frequencies penetrate solid structures better, hence why 850 MHz next G was always better than 2100 MHz Optus and Voda had, especially inside office towers. It’s not the frequency, it is the number of cells that add capacity. LTE is about increasing bandwidth available per cell site. It is much cheaper than establishing new cell sites.

        • Actually it most certainly is the frequency. Turning down the signal power simply makes a bad signal. The benefit of higher frequencies is that they attenuate more, so that you can have higher power (good) signals close to each other without interfering, which is why next G relies on both 850 and 2100 mhz.

  • 4GB a month for my LTE Android phone. 4GB a month for my LTE iPad, 300GB a month on my ADSL. 10GB a month for my office supplied LTE dongle… Hmmm I just realised I use a lot of data every month.

  • I was punished by buying the unlocked Galaxy Ace (850/900/1800/1900MHz quad-band with 900/2100MHz HSDPA) just over a month before the Telstra-Voda shared network dissolution was announced, leaving me with a phone I couldn’t return after the fact. As it stands, my 3G is terrible since I have not yet bought another phone (and why should I, since the Ace was meant to last a while), and this rezoning of the 900MHz carrier freq is probably gonna bust me up too.

    • that’s your own fault…by purchasing a non-850MHz compatible device for use on the Telstra network (given than the 850Mhz has been around for at least 6 years, and Telstra stopped selling non-850mhz devices ages ago) you knew you were putting yourself in a situation where the network wouldn’t work as intended for you. Telstra stopped marketing their 2100mhz network long ago so no one to blame but yourself. Btw the 900mhz is primarily refarming of the GSM spectrum, not 3G so I doubt that the effect will be that great (esp for metropolitan areas where most of the GSM spectrum is 1800mhz

      • When the time came, and the page was put up by Telstra to check phones if they could support the change-over, I was informed by it that my unit was indeed compatible, though I’d like to know what their definition of compatible was. I purchased my unit from Dick Smith, who (when I came back after the announcement, to complain about being stranded) said that I should have been told about it (when I wasn’t) and it was Telstra’s fault for telling me my phone would work when “it was obviously impaired” and that “we would never have sold you that”. Funny, that, since they declined to resolve the issue because the phone was (obviously) dead stock to them, and told me to contact Telstra about resolving the issue. And, of course Telstra says not their problem because I never bought it from them.

        • when you say your unit was ‘compatible’ what do you mean. You do realise that there are multiple versions of the Galaxy Ace right. Telstra sell their own 850mhz compatible version. Typically with low end handsets in Australia the way it goes is that the 3G versions are 2100/900 (for Optus and old Vodafone) and 2100/850 (for Telstra and newer vodafone, although vodafone still sell the 900mhz handsets as well). If dick smith misled you in any way prior to the purchase you should be entitled to a refund (although in your case it sounds more like after-the fact)

          • By compatible, I mean whatever model they think I have, when I enter an IMEI number for them to check. Unless they can tell that I have a 2100/850 model specifically, they should not have told me my unit would have been compatible after change-over. A fact which I seriously doubt, as Google Play labels my unit “Telstra GT-5830”.

        • Same here. Telstra told me they don’t sell phones unless I also sign up to either a post-paid or pre-paid plan. They even suggested I buy phone from Dick Smith. They did not tell me that a month later it would be announced 2100Mhz network was closing. Bought phone (for my dad) from Dick Smith, Now useless. Telstra said Dick Smith’s fault. Dick Smith says Telstra’s fault. My dad has a company provided SIM, and his clients (he’s a salesman for a land developer) that are buying land in this new estate are very surprised how horribly slow and bad Telstra is in the area.

      • When I bought a new phone for my dad early last year (who’s provided with a company SIM – Telstra, but they provide the phone), I went into Telstra to buy a phone. I was told “We don’t sell standalone phones, only phones with plans. You’ll need to go to Dick Smith or another store if you just want a phone.” (there is a Dick Smith in the same centre, which might be way they mentioned the store by name)- Now that was before Telstra announced their 2100Mhz 3G network was closing down. So this “Telstra stopped selling …” argument makes no sense, since they sold no phones without a plan of some sort.

        • prepaid IS NOT a plan….there is no contract and you can leave at any time, You can also buy a phone outright from telstra and related retailers (like JB Hi FI) outright and unlocked. You can get any phone on prepaid so I don’t know how your logic applies. This includes the galaxy ace, which was offered by telstra on prepaid at some stage (not sure if it still is)

          • I was using Telstra’s words “We only sell phones on plans, whether it’s postpaid or prepaid”, so Telstra call prepaid a plan. And despite what you say Telstra do NOT sell phones outright. Their staff will know more than you. Their staff told me they don’t, and to go somwhere else to buy it – and they suggested Dick Smith which was 9 stores away from them.

          • As I said – I was using Telstra’s words. I don’t care what the official meaning in. The women working there said “We only sell phones on plans, whether it’s postpaid or prepaid. Not standalone phones”

  • Iknow very little about these things but…I don’t suppose, by any chance, that the Kogan Agora 5″ will be able to access data because it has that strange 2G sim slot?

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