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CDMA mobile network closure postponed.



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CDMA mobile network closure postponed

Today I am announcing that I have made a decision concerning the Carrier License Condition that was imposed on Telstra, regarding the closure of the CDMA network.

The CDMA Carrier Licence Condition was put in place by the previous Government in September 2007.

Under the Carrier Licence Condition, Telstra can only switch off the CDMA network when I consider that its replacement provides equivalent coverage and equivalent retail services.

Telstra's declaration of equivalence provided to the previous Minister on 15 October triggered consideration under the Carrier Licence Condition.

If I am not satisfied that there is equivalence I must provide a statement of reasons and give Telstra the opportunity to rectify the matters.

Telstra must then provide me with a rectification report and I must then reconsider whether the CDMA network can be switched off.

I have reached a decision that I am not in a position to declare equivalence between the Next G™ network and the CDMA networks, and therefore the closure of the CDMA network will be postponed.

I have spoken to Telstra this morning and have informed them of my decision.

I have asked Telstra to provide me with advice within two weeks on how they will rectify a number of issues. Furthermore, I have asked Telstra to provide me with a detailed report that identifies how these issues have been resolved to enable me to reconsider this matter.

Telstra has advised me that this can be done by 28th April.

This date seems reasonable, subject to me a receiving a report that comprehensively addresses my concerns.

Telstra has told me it will fix these issues quickly and consumers should prepare on the basis that the CDMA network will be switched off in the near future.

I would like to encourage consumers to find out what they need to do to replace their CDMA equipment and services.

They must act quickly and carefully to ensure they obtain the right handsets, other equipment and services suitable to their needs.

A key factor in enabling me to come to the decision I have reached was a report provided to me by ACMA.

A copy of this report is available on my Department’s website.

The report showed that the Next G™ network footprint is equivalent to the CDMA network,

Senator the Hon Senator Conroy MINISTER FOR BROADBAND, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

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18 January 2008

and I agree with ACMA’s finding on this.

ACMA also found, and I agree, that the Next G™ coverage using an external aerial was equivalent.

However issues were identified with handheld coverage, which I have asked Telstra to address.

In order to access a Next G™ service that is equivalent to a CDMA service, it is crucial customers use an appropriate handset or equipment.

In some cases, customers have purchased, or are purchasing, Next G™ handsets and equipment that do not provide equivalent coverage.

I appreciate that Telstra has been very active in working with customers affected by this situation, including exchanging handsets in genuine cases where this is required to give them equivalent coverage.

I have made it clear to Telstra that it should continue to do everything possible to ensure that customers are using the correct Next G™ equipment.

This should include replacing handsets at no financial penalty in genuine cases.

I have also asked Telstra to be more active in publicly informing customers to contact them with Next G™ handsets issues.

The Government expects Telstra to advertise a phone number that customers can ring to get these issues resolved.

In addition to the ACMA report I have been provided with material by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

This includes the results of a survey which indicates that some customers have not received the most appropriate advice for their needs.

This survey is also available on my Department’s website.

While the survey shows that the majority of advice has been appropriate, it is vital that all customers receive the correct advice.

Telstra has agreed to immediately implement a retail accreditation program to ensure that Telstra retail staff are meeting a minimum standard of excellence.

Telstra has taken the lead on this and I encourage the rest of the industry to follow.

The final issue that has been identified is that a number of customers have depended on the CDMA network to provide their home phones through CDMA Wireless Local Loop.

In addition, many essential service providers, farmers and agricultural companies use CDMA telemetry systems for remote data communications.

I am concerned that some of these customers may not have had access to the necessary Next G™ equipment in time to migrate to the Next G™ network.

I have asked Telstra to confirm in its report to me that this equipment is available to enable the migration, and that these customers have been given every opportunity to migrate.

I recognise that Telstra is working urgently with these customers to address their concerns, and I look forward to a further report from Telstra once the needs of these customers for an equivalent service have been addressed.

I want to finish today by thanking Telstra on their co-operation in this matter.

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Telstra should be congratulated for investing extensively in its Next G™ network, which has received world recognition.

I appreciate the resources and commitment Telstra has brought to implementing its new national network.

Document ID: 80711 | Last modified: 18 January 2008, 4:10pm

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