Coverage maps and technical specifications accurate as of 25th July 2018 from publicly available information*
Icom device specs re-checked 8th July 2020
Telstra 3G shutdown in June 2024 will not affect the Icom IP501H or IP503H as their 3G coverage on Telstra is already practically non-existent as the required frequencies are not supported.
Icom IP501H IP503H ("Export" [non-US] version) Telstra coverage
Real Telstra coverage
Motorola Zeon Network (800MHz TETRA digital, closed 2019)
Orion Network coverage (UHF DMR digital radio)
The Icom IP501H and IP503H are devices which operates just like a portable radio, but using the mobile network. There are many benefits of a device like this, but the Icom IP501H and IP503H have some critical technical pitfalls for use in Australia, despite the fact that they are solid PTT devices.
If you don't have time for the finer details, the maps above pretty much sum it up. Whatever PTT system, UHF or VHF radio network, Icom LTE radio, PTT, PTToC or PoC device you are investing in, check the specs and do thorough testing before you buy, and make up your own mind on the coverage and performance for your needs.
Frequency issues which severely limit Icom IP501H and IP503H operation and coverage in Australia:
1. The Icom IP501H and IP503H do not support LTE Band 28, which is the lower 700MHz frequency, crucial for coverage and performance. Band 28 LTE is used by both Telstra and Optus. Band 28 is Telstra's most important LTE frequency band, and first mandatory 4G LTE band for Telstra approved equipment.
2. The Icom IP501H and IP503H (export/Non-USA version) do not properly support the Telstra network.
a. Icom IP501H and IP503H (non-USA version) do not support Band 5 WCDMA (850MHz 3G). This is the required Telstra 3G band in Australia. The higher frequency 3G bands, which were used in metro areas for extra capacity, are already being phased out completely, and in most cases are no longer used for 3G.
b. Both Icom IP501H and IP503H versions (US and export) don't support LTE Band 28, which is the lower 700MHz frequency, crucial for coverage and performance. Band 28 LTE is used by both Telstra and Optus, and is Telstra's most important LTE band. This limits Telstra and Optus Icom IP503H coverage.
3. The Icom IP501H and IP503H (Export/non-USA version) do not support Band 5 LTE, also limiting Icom IP503H Vodafone coverage. Vodafone's low frequency (high coverage) LTE network is Band 5 (850MHz).
Let's paint a scenario using the Telstra network: the network with the most coverage (on a device supporting the required frequencies). If the Icom IP501H or IP503H moves out of the short coverage of the higher frequencies and falls back to 3G, in rare cases there may still be coverage on the higher 3G bands but this is mostly phased out. Telstra 3G will be completely shut down by June 2024.
In most areas using Telstra, where there is no high frequency 4G coverage, the Icom IP501H and IP503H will have no coverage whatsoever. The Icom IP503H and IP501H do not support the required frequencies. The Icom IP503H user is left with limited options, particularly when maximum coverage is required.
We note the Icom IP501M (mobile or vehicle-mounted device) has an Australian version which supports the all-important LTE Band 28 and 3G Band 5.
If you're using the Icom IP503H or IP501H in a metro or built-up area, or on Optus, you may be OK (for now, at least). Whatever PTT system, UHF or VHF radio network, Icom LTE radio, or another PTT or PoC device you are investing in, check the specs and do thorough testing before you buy and make up your own mind on the coverage and performance for your needs.
*Reference sources, unless otherwise noted, retrieved 25 July 2018:
Icom IP501H frequency ranges and specifications: http://www.icom-australia.com/products/networking-lte/ip-501h/NETWORKING-LTE_IP501H_Brochure.pdf (re-checked 8th July 2020)
Icom IP503H specifications https://lteradio.com.au/products/ip503h/ (checked 8th July 2020)
Telstra Coverage maps ("detailed" map views shown): https://www.telstra.com.au/coverage-networks/our-coverage
Orion network radio coverage (redrawn): http://orionet.com.au/Coverage-Maps.aspx
Zeon Digital coverage map (redrawn): https://www.motorolasolutions.com/en_xa/products/zeon-digital/resources.html
Motorola Zeon Digital network shutdown: http://images.campaignresources.motorolasolutions.com/Web/MotorolaSolutionsInc/%7Bf5013444-21d1-4be7-8749-6dead9d24536%7D_Changes_to_ZEON_Digital_Network.pdf