Last month without warning or fanfare, Telstra quietly announced it would be turning off its 3G mobile network in 2024.
Telstra area general manager Michael Marom said Telstra would switch off the network in June 2024 so it could reassign the spectrum to its 4G, 4GX and 5G services.
"3G has served us well but we need to re-purpose that spectrum in order to provide better connectivity moving forward," he said.
"We have four and half years to get it right, it is our intention that all areas serviced by 3G will be serviced by 4G, 4GX or 5G by the time we decommission the 3G network.
"There is absolutely no doubt that we are planning to make sure we do not compromise the customer experience, we will make sure the coverage map is as good, if not better."
Mr Marom said the move away from 3G could benefit customers in rural Australia.
"The really important thing for customers to understand is that we are continuing to invest in the evolution of our network, particularly keeping in mind what the future holds," he said.
"It's not just about people in cities, or streaming videos and entertainment, it is also about how we grow regional economies.
"Farming and mining are more reliant on machines, machine technology, the internet of things and being able to send and receive information faster and potentially in high definition. These things need more bandwidth and they need a better technology to enable them."
Mr Marrom said Telstra customers would need to look at their current equipment and plan to upgrade to 4G compatible handsets, boosters and aerials over the next four years.
"They don't need to do it straight away, but you do need to start to think about it," he said.
"We would also encourage customers in regional and remote areas that have coverage challenges to explore the options of legal signal boosters."
National Farmers Federation regional communications chair, Queensland farmer Peter Thompson said switching off the 3G network was fine, as long as Telstra replaced it with a reliable alternative.
"Ideally that would be 4GX rather than 4G as the 4GX delivers a higher data speed," he said.
Mr Thompson said the connectivity to the actual tower, which carries out the 'backhaul', was also an important consideration to remove congestion and ensure high speed data flowed.
"4GX towers supported by either fibre optic cable or an equivalent connection would be preferable," he said.
"Think of it like a pipe, if you start with a 25 millimetre pipe to try and feed all your troughs, you can have all the fantastic troughs and taps and valves you want and it you will only get a dribble through it."
Mr Thompson said while there was significant concern in the community that loosing the 3G network could impact on coverage for voice calls in his experience a move to 4GX could in fact reduce black spots.
"The 4G signal travels further, since we have switched we have seen less black spots," he said.
Mr Thompson said it was important for regional, rural and remote users to have access to more data.
"Everyone's data usage is increasing, whether it is because they are using more or the applications they rely on require higher data speeds," he said.
"Newer tractors and headers have the ability to self-diagnose or self-fix, but you need good connectivity to use it.
"It is also about opening up regional areas to be re-populated and not necessarily with the traditional thinking that if you live remotely you can only be a farmer, if you live 50 or 80 kilometres out from a regional centre or town you should still have the means to run a business or carry out a job."
Mr Thompson said for farm businesses it was important that mobile coverage extended across the entire property.
"While you can have very good connectivity at a shed or a house, either through satellite, wireless or mobile depending on where you are, you still need to consider the rest of your farm," he said.
- courtesy North Queensland Register.