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Cloudy forecasts and rain spoil Telstra 3G launch

Australian carrier Telstra activated it’s A$1bn (£400m) 3G network on Friday, delivering voice and wireless broadband services to 98 per cent of the population.

Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo switched on the NEXT GTM network, which runs HSDPA in the 850MHz band, introducing video calling to locations across regional Australia, including Thursday Island, Southport, Cape Byron and Broome.

Built in less than a year and two months ahead of schedule, the NEXT GTM network promises download speeds averaging 550Kbps to 1.5Mbps, and peak network speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, increasing up to 14.4Mbps early next year.

Telstra and Ericsson will continue to extend network coverage and upgrade software for faster speeds next year in readiness for the closure of Telstra’s CDMA network in 2008.

New 3G services launched today include 12 streaming TV channels from FOXTEL including news, sport, wildlife documentaries and children’s programs as well as Warner Bros. classic movies and music downloads.

The carrier has signed up Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson to produce a roadmap of approximately 30 devices that will be available over the next 18 months. At launch four devices were available including the Samsung A701 and A501, Telstra ZTE 850/51 and LGTU500, as well as one PDA, the i-mate JASJAM and one data card.

However, the activation of the giant 3G network was overshadowed by a cut in forecast earnings, due to new regulations giving rivals cheaper access to Telstra’s network infrastructure.

Trujillo has long complained to the competition commission for “mandating competitors’ below cost access to our fixed line network” but has been fighting a losing battle.

The news also threatens to cast clouds over the privatisation of the carrier, due to be priced in the coming days.

As if an uncertain outlook was not enough, the analyst briefing on the 3G launch was further dampened when a sprinkler malfunctioned and soaked the stage during the Telstra executives’ presentation. Hundreds of analysts were forced to evacuate the building, while Telstra executives scrambled for the roof.

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