Telstra moves to connect rural Australia

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Telstra will invest $31 million and provide a high-speed wireless internet access service for rural and regional Australia by the end of 2004, according to a federal government announcement on Tuesday.

The proposed wireless data service -- known as 1xRTT -- would be based on Telstra's CDMA mobile phone network, and would be capable of transmission speeds of up to 144Kb/s. This would mean that any person with a compatible mobile phone, PCMCIA card or modem could access the service.

Doug Campbell, group managing director for Telstra Country Wide, said the announcement was a massive leap in internet connection options for rural and regional customers, commenting that 'up until now the only fast internet option for these customers has been satellite.'

He said that new wireless service 'will also be of interest to many internet dial-up customers -- especially those connected by very long lengths of copper -- because of the considerably faster data speeds that can be achieved.'
'We are developing a range of pricing and access plans which will make 1x very attractive to our rural customers,' Campbell said.

The CDMA network now already covered almost one-fifth of the Australian land mass, which was 'more than double the coverage of GSM', Campbell said. If successful the new 1x infrastructure will cover 98 percent of the Australian population.

1xRTT stands for single carrier radio transmission technology and, according to Campbell, was a proven technology and a 'compelling proposition for those who want mobile data, or who are in areas of CDMA coverage but no fixed telecommunication infrastructure.'

1x was launched a year ago in the greater metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, and in February 2003, in Brisbane, Canberra the Gold Coast, and selected regional sites. It spread to other capitals only months ago.

Most newer CDMA handsets were 1x compatible and Telstra claimed that there were already over 100,000 1x capable devices in the hands of customers, most of them in rural and regional areas.

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