What’s next for Australia’s best, largest and most reliable mobile network

Our belief in the power of connection is fundamental to who we are as a company, and what drives us every day. It’s why we continue to pioneer, to innovate, and find better ways to keep our customers connected – whether in Berri, Bamaga or Busselton.
Sri Amirthalingam · 26 February 2024 · 6 minute read

It’s how, as a company of passionate individuals, we’ve come to build the country’s largest and most reliable mobile network. It’s a network we’re incredibly proud of – one that reaches more than 2.7 million square kilometres, covering 99.6 per cent of the population. To help put that into perspective, that’s around one million square kilometres more than our nearest competitor. Our 5G network covers around 87 per cent of the Australian population today, with 48 per cent of our mobile traffic now on 5G.

While coverage is key to keeping us reliably connected in more places, it’s only one part of delivering the best network. Our customers need a resilient network, a network that is secure and importantly, a network that doesn’t rest on being the best. It’s our commitment to deliver the best experience that sees us continue to pioneer new ways for connectivity, to collaborate with partners and expand our thinking about what’s possible, and push the technology envelope.  

What’s next on the horizon

While we have much to be proud of as network leaders, our sights are set on the future and the next frontier of connectivity. Our optimism and determination has driven us to deliver many world leading achievements on our network, thanks to the passion and hard work of many people across our business and our strategic partners.  

In the last two weeks alone we have delivered six new world firsts, taking our total tally to 58 world-first network achievements in the last 15 years. That includes four new 5G world firsts, making a total of 23 so far in 5G.

As we look to the future, we continue to assess what the next important milestones could be and there are a few key trends guiding our ambition. 

Demand for data 

Across our mobile network we’re seeing data growth of around 30% every year, a trend reflected across our APAC subsea cable network, which also carries home internet traffic, along with increased investment in data centres locally.  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and network automation 

There’s a big wave of innovation around digitisation and AI or machine learning. As our network advances towards 6G, AI will be at the heart of network operations. The network will become more complex, automated, with everything happening in real time. It will provide the opportunity to predict potential disruptions or even catch events before they happen, to ultimately provide the greater reliability and resiliency our customers need. 

LEO satellite technology 

We have a proven history of navigating emerging tech and implementing world class tech solutions for our customers at the right time and in the best way. In the satellite space we are moving quickly to build our capability with key agreements in place with LEO satellite operators, including Starlink and OneWeb. We’re also working with Lynk Global to explore and test direct to handset satellite technology as a potential way to extend mobile connectivity beyond our current terrestrial footprint. 

Security and sovereign capability 

Cybercrime is now the third largest economy, behind just the United States and China. With the threat of cybercrime impacting individuals and businesses, it’s an area where we take our leadership role very seriously.  

In responding to these challenges, our approach is one built on collaboration, to work closely with our partners to deliver the next frontier of connectivity, while protecting Australians and the digital economy.

Delivering the best network experience 

We pride ourselves on delivering our customers an experience they can rely upon, from coverage, to speed that matters, responsiveness and reliability.

Recently we set a new global record for 5G uplink speed of 340 Mbps in our live commercial network, using the latest spectrum and technology innovation in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.  

Where deployed, it will provide our customers an enhanced experience when uploading their content while on the move and is another example of how we are leading the way in 5G innovation and investment. 

The technology capabilities behind the world first will allow us to use the 850 MHz spectrum that 3G currently uses to improve the coverage and performance experience for both downlink and uplink.  

Delivering on the needs of our Enterprise customers we have announced we’ll be bringing a world first 5G slicing product to market this year, with committed and reported performance levels. This means customers can access a secure slice of our 5G standalone network with committed performance levels that we measure and report on, ensuring transparency and accountability around specific speeds and uptime as part of the network slice.

We’ve also celebrated a world first with our partners Adtran and Red Hat that will help our enterprise customers unlock more value from hardware already installed in the network. As part of the milestone, we installed Red Hat OpenShift directly on existing Adtran network devices that sit at the edge between our network and the customers’ network. It means customers can save money and space by using less of their own computers or cloud services, and ultimately make their network more secure, monitor their connectivity performance in real time and run other small business applications. 

We continue to find ways to enhance connectivity for regional and remote Australia. We recently announced a world first and close to tenfold capacity boost to a remote community off Tasmania, King Island, with the launch of Australia’s longest over-water microwave telecommunications link with a throughput capacity of 9.8 Gbps at 99.99% availability. 

And as part of our ongoing work with OneWeb we reached two new important milestones this month – bringing our first site on air at the Coalseam campground in WA, and only a week prior, making our first call on a live mobile site over LEO satellite backhaul in Oxford Falls NSW. With a tenfold reduction in average latency and at least a 15 times increase in average bandwidth compared to existing GEO satellite backhaul, LEO backhaul will provide greater mobile experiences for our regional customers on satellite backhauled cells. These achievements inch us closer to enabling LEO backhaul to remote mobile sites at scale and making it possible for more economic expansion of mobile coverage into remote areas.  

Taking network resilience to the next level


Resiliency has always been a focus for us, we approach it in our technology, architecture and network operations and we’re doing more work than ever to prepare for if things go wrong. 

Only last week we announced a world first achievement with AWS and Nokia through a resiliency trial of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). The groundbreaking trial promises new ways to build network resilience and reliability in Telstra’s fixed and mobile network. It works by delivering voice over the cloud network to keep continuity of voice services during certain unplanned network interruptions, where the primary solution is not working correctly. It’s a step forward that, if deployed, means greater protection from unlikely adverse events.  

In another effort to keep Australian’s connected when the unexpected happens (in this case natural disasters), earlier this month we successfully simulated functionality that could underpin a future temporary disaster roaming solution. This solution would provide the ability for people to use any available mobile network during natural disasters if their own provider’s network has been impacted or doesn’t have coverage.  

We’re also exploring how we can radically transform our network using AI. Not only could this allow us to foresee potential network outage scenarios, it would also mean we can manage these efficiently when they occur.

But this involves reimagining work and business processes with scaled AI, instead of injecting AI to solve individual problems. This reimagining with AI has already begun too – we’ve already started training on massive sets of alarm data and telemetry in our fixed network. This allows us to quickly detect any anomalous events in our network, and then do proactive and predictive analytics, to reduce the resolution time, and increase resiliency, to potentially prevent network and security related customer issues.  

The next phase of this is to expand upon the real time tuning already taking place in our mobile network and make it even more powerful using AI and machine learning.

As technology gets more advanced, we’re also very much focussed on how we can make it more efficient and sustainable.  

Using the latest Ericsson technology with AMD chipsets, we’re able to reduce our energy consumption by up to 49% compared to existing earlier-generation hardware. This new technology combines AMD’s processors with HPE’s closed-loop liquid cooling system to significantly reduce the overall cooling requirement compared to traditional air cooling, especially in high-load situations.

Collaborating deeply to drive innovation 

We believe that through strong partnerships we can work together in innovative ways to deliver better solutions for our customers. 

Our partners are critical to helping us accelerate this innovation – allowing rapid access to new capabilities surfacing globally.   

An example of this is the work we have been doing with 5G Future Forum members and AWS to introduce a new approach for using Bi-Directional APIs to advance Multi-Access Edge Computing. The new framework offers a path to facilitate information sharing between cloud computing services and the network and would support developers to go to market faster with more innovative and resilient applications. 

It’s through these types of partnerships and collaboration that we’re able to deliver brilliant connectivity, better experiences for our customers and create more value on top of our networks.    

Technology plays an increasingly critical role in all our lives – from checking in on friends and family, to booking an appointment, or tracking a delivery. Whether it be at work or at home, reliable and secure connectivity is a necessity in our day to day lives. We recognise the crucial role we play in this reality and will continue to play our part by keeping Australians connected with a resilient and secure network you can trust.

By Sri Amirthalingam

Commercial Engineering Executive

Sri leads investment strategy, technology roadmap, and planning and construction for Telstra's fixed and mobile networks. Sri has worked for Telstra for more than 25 years, predominantly in wireless networks and has helped build and run Telstra’s AMPS, GSM, CDMA, 3G, and LTE networks.