Coverage blackspots, caused by buildings and other inference, are a major pain in the butt. Telstra is planning to improve their coverage footprint through the installation of 1000 "small cells" in the CBDs of major Australian cities. The project started in Tasmania, with Melbourne already receiving 50 of the small cells and other cities to follow.
Telstra said a small cell is a miniature version of a standard mobile base station and Telstra is using the technology to cost effectively deliver 4G coverage to areas where existing coverage is minimal or not available. After an initial trial in Tasmania, in the Weldborough area, they are expanding the deployment in Tasmania to another 17 locations that include Taroona, Glendevie, Rocky Cape, Judbury, St Marys, Lebrina and Lake Barrington.
This is part of the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program in Tasmania.
The technology is not new. Telstra's Channa Seneviratne, the Executive Director for Network and Infrastructure Engineering at Telstra Operations, said "We’ve been using small cells to extend coverage mostly in rural and remote areas for several years, now we are deploying them in CBD locations around Australia as a cost-effective way to handle the ever growing demand for data".
Another 50 small cells have been deployed in Melbourne, in the area bound by Spring, Spencer, La Trobe and Flinders Streets - the bulk of the CBD. They are being deployed on existing infrastructure such as light and electricity poles with the area carrying "two and three times the average CBD small cell traffic".
Seneviratne added "Now that we’ve successfully installed 4G small cell sites in Melbourne’s CBD, we will be looking to expand the small cells footprint in other CBD and urban areas. Some of these areas include Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, as well as our continuing use of them as an alternative for enhancing coverage in regional areas".
As someone who has had calls drop out while walking around Australian cities and wondered why web pages and online service suddenly stopped responding, this is a good move. While all three major Australian carriers boast strong coverage in urban areas, all suffer from dead zones within their coverage maps. With Telstra taking this step, they are furthering their case to be considered the country's premium mobile carrier - albeit at some of the highest prices you can pay.