Telstra unveils wireless broadband upgrade

Telstra has unveiled a significant upgrade to its wireless internet services, which could put it in direct competition with the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Telstra says it will boost speeds on its wireless internet service by rolling out wireless broadband 4G technology this year.

Chief executive David Thodey announced the plan at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"The technology can provide many Australians with faster data speeds, high-quality video conferencing and faster response times when using mobile applications or accessing the internet," he said.

"It can also help Telstra meet demand for mobile data, which is doubling every year as customers move to adopt data-hungry smartphones, mobile modems and tablets."

The upgrade will be funded from Telstra's existing budget for capital expenditure.

The telco's announcement comes on the back of a new report from corporate consultants Greenhill Caliburn on the NBN.

It warns a trend towards mobile networks could draw away customers who are prepared to sacrifice speed for greater flexibility.

The Federal Opposition's telecommunications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, says it further undermines the case for building the $36 billion project.

"It certainly is less likely to be financially viable. The NBN business case assumes the penetration of wireless broadband is not going to continue," he said.

"The problem of course is that wireless broadband is improving as well."

"Wireless broadband is moving into a new generation which will deliver speeds comparable to fast broadband fixed-lines speeds - faster in fact than the fixed-line speed we are getting at the moment in Australia - and of course it has the added and very considerable convenience of mobility."

But telecommunications consultant Paul Budde says he does not think the growth of wireless internet services will affect the long-term viability of the NBN.

He says there will still be an important role for a fibre optic network.

"The mobile network will be very, very important, and yes, there will be an overlap between the NBN and the fixed network and the wireless network," he said.

"But the NBN will be used what I call in a trans-sector way so that healthcare, education, media, energy companies, they will also use the NBN [for] all applications that are impossible to run over a wireless network."

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