The three LTE networks operated by Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have been developed rapidly during the past two years. These MNOs are striving to provide an infrastructure capable of meetings customer demand for mobile broadband services, and are also preparing for the possibilities anticipated through the deployment of 5G within the next few years. Telstra continues to be a global leader in mobile services, being a partner with Ericsson in developing 5G. The two companies have demonstrated 1Gb/s capabilities over a commercial LTE network using carrier aggregation technology, and will use the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland to trial a range of technologies. Increasingly in an era leaning further to mobile data than voice, these networks must offer sufficient performance for customers. These developments have propelled Australia in global league tables, with the country having recorded the fastest peak mobile broadband speeds globally.
Optus and Telstra have been able to utilise their 700MHz spectrum assets since early 2015, with which they aim to provide about 98% population coverage by the end of 2016. Vodafone is relying on upgrades to its existing concessions, and provides about 95% coverage in metro areas. The auction of unused spectrum in the 1800MHz band in February 2016 will further improve the ability of MNOs to extend their LTE services. As a result of these developments the mobile market has seen a steady migration of subscribers from 3G to LTE.
Upgraded networks face daunting data demands from customers, many of whom make use of data-intensive graphics, videos and files shared across the networks. In addition, popular OTT services such as Netflix, a company which alone had attracted about five million customers by June 2016, provide streaming of content over mobile devices. While networks can at times be strained, the MNOs are continually adding capabilities and applications in an effort to reduce their overall costings. Customer preference for Wi-Fi from homes and workplaces has meant that mobile broadband traffic is largely offloaded to fixed-line infrastructure. Given that about 90% of all mobile device sales are now smartphones, the growth in mobile data traffic is increasing rapidly. In the year to December 2015 mobile data traffic grew 21% year-on-year.
While the SMS service remains popular there is also increasing competition from OTT services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and built-in messaging services from the likes of Facebook and other social media providers. The preponderance of bundled plans which include a large number of texts and voice minutes has also helped to retain the popularity of messaging, though at the expense of SMS revenue for operators.
A new BuddeComm report provides data and analysis on a range of mobile technologies in Australia, as well as an assessment of network developments. It also assesses the prospects for operators as they extend their LTE deployments beyond the major urban areas and deeper into rural areas. The report contains a range of valuable key statistics on network data throughput, operator strategies and emerging technologies.
For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Australia – Mobile Broadband Market – Services and Apps