Telstra welcomes MVNO’s to the world of 4G

For years, Telstra’s mobile network has been a vital lifeline for budget retailers looking to give customers a cheap mobile bundle without having to sacrifice network coverage or connection speeds.

It’s been a deal that benefitted both sides of the deal and it will come as no surprise then that the telecom giant has announced that mobile virtual network operators (MVNO’s) will now be able to gain access to their new 4G network a month before its official launch on June 6.

This means that the likes of Aldi Mobile, Woolworths Mobile and Telechoice will be able to extend their coverage outside of urban areas for the first time on a high speed connection rather than a standard 3G network.

Finally filling the void

The biggest impact to come out from Telstra’s announcement will no doubt be that the budget retailers will now finally be able to expand across the whole country and not focus solely on urban areas.

A lot of consumers in cities have started to lean towards MVNO’s in the past couple of years, thanks to their cheaper prices despite still receiving high-speed network access from a major carrier such as Telstra.

However, it has only been a service that has benefitted those living in metro areas where those in regional Australia have been wondering just when they would benefit from the 4G revolution.

Following on from last year’s spectrum auction, Telstra’s new national 4G network should help end the drought with the company revealing that their network will cover 92% of the population, including well known black spots in far north Queensland, northern WA and around NT.

Telstra has boasted that their new network will reach download speeds of 100mbps which could drive customers towards the Telstra-backed MVNO’s given the significant performance boost that will offer over the current network.

It’s a move that the telecom giant hopes will help continue the steady popularity of MNVO services across the country. This was underlined by Telstra Wholesale executive Will Irving who told ZDnet:

We know many of our MVNO customers are keen to have the opportunity to offer 4G services on Australia’s leading mobile network, so we are pleased to have the next evolution of our wholesale offer ready ahead of schedule.

A new battlefield

Telstra’s move to support the likes of Aldi Mobile and Woolworths Mobile looks likely to light the fuse of the next battle between the heavyweights of the telecom industry as Optus and Vodafone look to put themselves in a similar position.

All three of the telecom giants provide network access to different MNVO’s and are all in the midst of giving budget carriers the means to access a 4G connection anywhere in Australia.

Despite Telstra having stolen the headlines with the announcement, it was Optus who actually threw the first punch through their partnership with Amaysim.

Indeed, budget carrier powerhouse Amaysim has already got a strong stranglehold on the industry having switched all of their other labels such as Vaya and Live Connected to the Optus Plus network over the past two years.

Not to be outdone, Vodafone are also in the process of launching their national 4G network at some point this year with Kogan Mobile having been the only established MNVO to reveal their partnership with the British mobile giant.

Whilst most carriers, major or minor, effectively tied into three factions, it has meant those who are going it alone may face an even harder time competing against their rivals.

The biggest name who could be left in the cold is TPG who has yet to reveal any of their plans in regards to future network deal.

Having been one of the more popular original pre-paid carriers in Australia, the international mobile giants have struggled to expand their customer base over the past couple of years.

In the latest Kantar report, it listed TPG as only having a 2% share of the Australian mobile sector which was almost a 1% drop over the past year.

Considering that their first target – Virgin – has a 6.8% share, it seems that TPG could be left behind unless they act quickly to get on the 4G bandwagon.

Can Telstra still dominate the sector?

By giving several MNVO’s early access to their 4G network, Telstra are look to set to hold on to their spot at the top of the mobile food chain.

A couple of the partner MNVO’s such as Aldi Mobile are rapidly increasing their influence in the prepaid market and giving them access will surely help Telstra extend their influence deeper into the roots of the mobile sector.

It will no doubt set up a huge fight with the Optus-Amaysim partnership which has been considered the leading prepaid combination for the past couple of years.

Optus’ continued exploration of online streaming revenues will also add to the stakes that the upcoming MNVO battle as customers look to get an all round deal which is both kind on data usage and provides comprehensive coverage anywhere in the country.

However, no matter what results this battle might bring, the fact that Australia will be covered by no less than three 4G networks by the end of 2016 will mean that consumers might finally get the ability to enjoy the benefits of high-speed data no matter where they are or who they are with.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.