VHA launches first 4G site in Oz to use NBN’s CSAS for backhaul

Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) launched 4G services on Monday in Molong, New South Wales, under the Australian federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP) that also uses the CSAS (Cell Site Access Service) backhaul service provided by nbn.

VHA says new site in Molong provides 155 square km of additional mobile phone coverage, including over 860 homes in the region plus along the Mitchell Highway, especially for small business and customers towards Larras Lee, Garra and Amaroo.

The site is also the first ever to use nbn’s CSAS offering, which is designed to allows cellcos to connect mobile sites using the nbn network for backhaul.

From the nbn press release:

In this instance VHA has installed an extra set of antennas on the Molong nbn fixed-wireless tower and used the nbn CSAS product to carry the mobile voice and data signals back to the nbn point of interconnection in Dubbo.

The CSAS service enables nbn to further leverage our investment in both our fibre and Fixed Wireless networks for the greater benefit of regional and rural Australians.

“The good thing about this is not just that we are helping to deliver a new service for end-users but also that we offering customers new products to help them extend their portfolio and spread their networks,” said nbn chief customer officer, John Simon in a statement, adding that CSAS also enables nbn to “make the most of its network and existing infrastructure.”

The nbn announcement notes that VHA’s CSAS usage will have no impact on consumer services in the area, as “data travels on nbn’s transit network.”

The CSAS offering was launched in September last year, but VHA is currently nbn’s first and only CSAS customer. According to Computerworld Australia, rivals Telstra and Optus have no immediate plans to follow VHA’s lead, although a Telstra spokesperson said the company would “continue to evaluate [CSAS] as required”.

Meanwhile, VHA says it also plans to switch on another site in Cumnock under the MBSP before the end of the Q1 2017. That’s expected to add 333 square km of coverage between Molong and Cumnock, as well as up to Cundumbul and up towards Garra and Amaroo.

The new Molong site is one of four new sites Vodafone Australia is set to build under Round 2 of the MBSP – three in NSW and one in Tasmania. In December last year, the government said it will allocate A$213 million ($159 million) towards funding new base stations in NSW (39), Victoria (32), Queensland (76), Western Australia (78), South Australia (20), Tasmania (6) and the Northern Territory (15). However, Vodafone cried foul at the time, as Telstra was awarded MBSP funds to build 148 mobile base stations, while Optus will roll out 114 new mobile sites.

According to the VHA press release, Minister for Regional Communications Fiona Nash said Round 1 alone of the MBSP would deliver 499 mobile phone towers covering some 3,000 coverage black spots across the nation, extending coverage to 26,000 homes and businesses who previously didn’t have it across 165,000 square kilometers.

To encourage uptake of the service in the new coverage area, VHA is offering new customers a money-back 30-day network satisfaction guarantee, as well as unlimited data for the first month to new customers who sign up for a selected 12- or 24-month plan.

Last week, VHA also launched a new MBSP site in Elsmore in NSW, saying it will invest more than A$8.2 million in the New England region to deliver a total of 56 new and upgraded sites, 18 of which will be delivered under Round 1 of the MBSP, and another two will be delivered under Round 2.

Also last week, VHA launched its first MBSP site for Queensland in Cooyar, providing aroind 744 square km of additional voice and data coverage, including more than 260 households, as well as along the New England Highway and Oakey-Cooyar Road. VHA said it will deliver another three new sites to extend its mobile network within the Maranoa electorate by the end of this year.

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