Telstra will be the first telco to activate 5G sites in Sydney and Melbourne after it was granted early access to the 3.6 GHz spectrum it won at auction. The telco can now begin trialling 5G in the capital cities but consumer access isn’t expected anytime soon.

Telcos bid on chunks of the 3.6GHz spectrum, which is used for 5G, at an auction last week. Telstra took the lion’s share, paying a reported $386 million for 143 lots. The spectrum gives Telstra60 MHz of 5G spectrum in Australia’s major cities and between 50-80 MHz of contiguous 5G spectrum in regional areas, according to ARN.

The telco also secured early access to the spectrum through an early access licence from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which will oversee 5G rollout in Australia. The licence allows Telstra to trial 5G sites in Sydney and Melbourne CBDs and airports beginning today, according to Telstra.

But consumers won’t be accessing 5G just yet. Compatible devices are not yet available in Australia.

Telstra has conducted similar 5G network trials elsewhere, including during the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. But the auction for Spectrum in Sydney and Melbourne is crucial as it is an area where Telstra had lacked access.

“Today’s announcement means there are now 187 sites around Australia that have been 5G-enabled with another 13 to be upgraded before the end of this calendar year,” said Telstra CEO Andrew Penn. 

“This series of network upgrades is not only making Telstra’s mobile network 5G ready but is also expected to help deliver world leading 4G speeds. 

“Over the coming months Telstra will continue expanding its 5G coverage with plans to roll out the technology and grow coverage to more cities, regional centres and high traffic areas,” Penn said. 

The new sites are at Telstra’s Customer Insight Centre at 400 George Street in Sydney, a mobile base station near Sydney Airport, Telstra Labs at 242 Exhibition Street in Melbourne with another mobile base station near Melbourne Airport coming online later this week.

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