Essentially there are 3 carriers with 4 "levels of service.
- Telstra Retail Network
- Telstra Wholesale Network
- Optus Network
- Vodafone Network
It's pretty clear when you are with Optus and Vodafone, a bit more confusing with Telstra Retail/Wholesale.
Telstra sell services on their own network to their own retail customers. This means that these customers get access to ALL parts of the Telstra network and all modes of operation like "Voice over LTE". The ONLY Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that has access to ALL of the retail network is BOOST (owned by Telstra)
All other MVNO's like Aldi, Belong (even though owned by Telstra) can access only the wholesale network, which means fewer towers in remote locations and no voice service when there is no 3G. (4G calls drop back to 3G if the service, tower or handset cannot manage "Voice over LTE").
This is current as of January 2020, we hope that Volte services will be made available on the wholesale network, as new towers going in are not provisioned with 3G. This means no voice service for older non Volte handsets or providers (MVNO's) that don't have access to this.
Cel-Fi Repeaters / aka Boosters are available that cover Telstra on 700/850(3G)/1800 Mhz meaning good boosted 4G and 3G coverage in metro, regional and rural areas.
The 2 images below show the coverage of Retail vs Wholesale
Please see Whistleout for the graphics above
Optus uses similar frequencies to Telstra, of note is Band 28 support (700Mhz) which is the 4G frequency with the best "legs" to carry service a long way from the tower.
The Optus coverage map shows good support along the eastern seaboard and major arterial highways. Less coverage in Central Australia, Eastern WA and NW WA.
Cel-Fi Repeaters are available that cover Optus on 700/850/1800 Mhz meaning good boosted 4G and 3G coverage in metro, regional and rural areas.
Vodafone is hard to support in Rural areas. Vodafone use 850 Mhz rather than 700 Mhz for their native 4G support plus 1800/2100/2600 Mhz. However this does not seem to have a lot of coverage and in areas without this coverage Vodafone can / may roam on to other operators services.
If the operator roams a repeater / booster, may not be able to boost the non native signal.
Cel-Fi Repeaters, cover 900 (3G)/1800/2100/2600 These frequencies are best used and allocated in Metroplitain and major Regional centres. Rural support / service coverage on 4G is minimal.
Things to be wary of:
To benefit from a boosted signal several things have to line up.
- The tower must support boostable frequencies (see above)
- Your service provider must have access to these towers (see Telstra Retail/Wholesale difference above)
- Your service provider must not be roaming on to another network (Think Vodafone issues)
- Your handset must be capable of, and set to receive, the boosted signal
Set The Cel-Fi to the desired mode of operation (3G/4G/Auto) We do not recommend Auto whilst testing.
Open the Cel-Fi Wave app and look at the Boost level on the dashboard (Best is 9) The dashboard will show the signal strength, the boost level and 3G / 4G (LTE) mode. To see which frequency is being boosted click on the Advanced Tab)
Check the signal strength on your phone. If it is not significantly higher than with the Booster switched off, then:
- The Booster is not boosting (no signal?)
- The handset is not set to, or not capable of, receiving the boosted signal
You get a boosted 4G signal, but can't make voice calls:
- Your handset is not capable of "Voice over LTE"
- Your service provider (MVNO) has not enabled Volte on the network