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Optus is set to take on Telstra, Vodafone and the 3 Network following an announcement that it plans to spend up to $800 million to build a new third generation (3G) mobile network which it says will reach 96 per cent of Australia’s population.

Optus chief executive Paul O’Sullivan said the telco would build a new communications network with a national footprint far beyond its existing 3G network, with services to commence in early 2008.

Mr O’Sullivan said construction of the new network would begin as soon as possible with the first phase addressing large regional areas including Newcastle, Bendigo, Ballarat and Wollongong.

The new network would operate in the 2100 megahertz (MHz) frequency range, with Optus looking at using the 900MHz frequency range to address smaller regional centres as well as rural and remote locations.

Optus said it had been trialling 3G at 900MHz for some months, with encouraging results.

Mr O’Sullivan said Optus would reach a final decision on frequency choice for the second phase of the rollout later in 2007.

“The cost of the network rollout is estimated at up to $800 million if it is built entirely at 2100MHz, and around $500 million if 900MHz proved feasible,” he said.

He said that would be funded out of Optus’ normal annual capital expenditure program over the three-year build period.

Optus said the new network would reach 96 per cent of the population, replicating the coverage of its existing national second generation (2G) network which covers over 650,000 square kilometres of Australia’s landmass.

Optus said it will continue to co-own its existing 2100MHz 3G network in metropolitan Australia, in a joint venture with Vodafone.

 

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