Telstra exec: I'm bullish on small cells but will invest in macro network first

CHICAGO--Australian operator Telstra is a proponent of small cell technology, but a top network executive at the company said the operator will invest in building its macro network first before it starts to look at small cells.

Mike Wright Telstra

   Mike Wright

Speaking at the 4G World conference here, Mike Wright, Telstra's executive director of network and access technologies, said that although Telstra is a proponent of small cells, the company believes it's important to put most of its investment in the macro network first. "Do I believe is small cells?  Yes. But I would put all capacity in my macrocell first," Wright said.

Telstra is in the midst of deploying LTE. The company as of September had deployed LTE across 40 percent of its POPs. Wright said it plans to have 66 percent of its POPs covered by June 2013. Of note, Wright said that Telstra views its network as a hybrid network with a mix of HSPA+ and LTE. "We are focused on blending and optimizing our network investment," he said.

Of course, the appeal of LTE, according to Wright, is to lower the cost per bit in delivering data to the customer and he admitted that Telstra, like many operators in the industry, needs to improve its marketing messages to the customer, especially in how it explains its network differentiation. "Our business priorities are improving customer service, getting more people online, reducing bill shock and retaining great customers," he said. 

Telstra has been known for its early innovations in the network. The company was one of the first to launch HSPA+21 and dual-carrier HSPA. It also was an early investor in fiber backhaul. Wright noted that Telstra's network is 93 percent covered by optical backhaul.

Interestingly, the company has no Wi-Fi offload strategy. Wright said that people in Australia are accustomed to using their cellular connection, not Wi-Fi when they are out and about. "Even in areas where Wi-Fi is free, people are using their dongles," Wright said, noting that Wi-Fi is big in the home environment. "We are working with Wi-Fi and think it's an important component, but we don't plan to own a Wi-Fi network," he said. "Many places are turning their Wi-Fi networks down from lack of use."

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