FSG, Optus to trial ‘host neutral’ radio network in Queensland

The federal government will fund a trial deployment of a radio access network in regional Australia that can be shared by any number of telcos.

ASX-listed Field Solutions Holdings – or FSG – said in a statement that it had been awarded $3.66 million for the trial under the government’s ongoing mobile blackspots program.

FSG said the “neutral host” model could help to reduce telcos’ costs to serve parts of regional Australia, since they could radio equipment, without needing to deploy their own on the same tower.

The company said the trial is the first of its kind in Australia.

FSG said the neutral host trial “will be deployed on the highly popular Queensland tourist and trucking route, the Adventure Way, running between Cunnamulla and Thargomindah.”

The idea is to have multi-carrier coverage on the route.

Optus will be the second mobile network operator (after FSG) to offer cellular services over the shared infrastructure, and is an official party to the trial.

FSG said a third mobile network operator would “be announced in coming months”.

“The neutral host model allows all Australian mobile network operators (MNOs) – FSG, Optus, Vodafone and Telstra – to share the same mobile network equipment on a tower,” the company said.

FSG’s chief executive officer Andrew Roberts said that, “Gone are the days of driving past a tower and having zero coverage because the tower belongs to the wrong carrier.”

“This model is the only sensible way to deliver more services in more places for the same investment,” he said.

FSG will offer cellular services to rural, regional and remote Australia under the ‘Regional Australia Network’ (RAN) brand in FY22/23.