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Modest first steps to ease analogue/cdma transition welcome, but more needs to be done.

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Stephen Smith MP

Member for Perth

Shadow Minister for Communications


Monday 17th January 2000






Shadow Minister for Communications, Stephen Sm ith, today welcomed Telstra’s and Acting Prime Minister John Anderson’s efforts to address transitional problems occurring as a result of the closure of the analogue mobile telephone network and the subsequent transition to the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital mobile telephone network.


However, Mr Smith said that more needed to be done to minimise disruption to rural and regional mobile phone users.


“I welcome sensible measures to ensure that the transition to the ODMA digital mobile network is as smooth as possible.


“Such measures could include further expediting the roll-out of the CDMA network, boosting cell signal strengths, extending the number of “boomer” cells on Telstra’s CDMA network, and while the CDMA roll-out proceeds, the selective maintenance of the existing analogue service in areas not currently receiving comparable CDMA coverage.


“I would also not exclude from consideration of the range of possible transition measures the selective and temporary re-instatement of analogue network cells where it can be objectively demonstrated that CDMA service does not provide comparable coverage to previous existing analogue services,” Mr Smith said.


“In this context, I welcome the announcement by Telstra of a plan to allow analogue network users to retain their analogue telephone for use in areas where CDMA handsets provide limited coverage. This is one practical way of seeking to overcome transitional problems in those areas.


“I do, however, support the suggestion of the Farmers’ Federation that Telstra waive the proposed $5 monthly fee for users of this measure.


“More importantly, I welcome Acting Prime Minister Anderson’s and Minister for Communications Senator Alston’s belated recognition late last week that we are in a transition period in respect of mobile telephone networks, and that the transition to more efficient digital services is not without its problems.


“Mr Anderson, Senator Alston and their Government colleagues have been content until last week to ignore suggestions of pract ical transition problems, seeking instead to simply blame all the problems of the world on the previous Labor Government’s 1992 decision to close the analogue network.


“The reality is that the Howard Government, for good reason, endorsed that decision in July 1996. It subsequently gave the enthusiastic green light to CDMA during the lead-up to the October 1998 election.


“It is the Howard Government which is responsible for the management of the transitional arrangements, including the monitoring of the “comparable coverage” the Government repeatedly promised would be in place after the closure of the analogue network,” Mr Smith said.


“In the management of these arrangements, the mistake that has been made by the Howard Government has been to over-sell CDMA, most noticeably during the 1998 election campaign — choosing instead to ignore the always inevitable teething problems of an impending transition, and creating the impression that CDMA would be better than analogue in every respect, including and in particular, coverage.


“The public record abounds with such statements:


·   “The Government is committed to phasing out the AMPS mobile phone network by 2000” and “Digital technology.., will provide an updated and more efficient system” — Richard Alston, 15th July 1996


· CDMA provides coverage equivalent to AMPS coverage from each base station” and “The new CDMA system will completely replace the existing analogue AMPS system.. .and will provide the same coverage as AMPS, but unlike AMPS, will provide high-speed data ” — Richard Alston, 9th July 1998.


·   “CDMA technology.. .will cover all the existing analogue areas, and be fully compatible with existing analogue networks” and ..... will move seamlessly between the new digital technologies and the old analogue technologies” - Richard Alston, when announcing the decision to introduce CDMA in July



·  “ Every area of regional Australia which now gets AMPS coverage will be upgraded to receive CDMA coverage”, “There will be a seamless hand-over to the new system” and “Australians can now be confident that with one handset they will get the widest available mobile coverage in the bush” —then Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, 9th July 1998.


·  “Any part of Australia which currently receives AMPS coverage will receive reasonably equivalent coverage from the new CDMA system ” — Richard Alston, 14th October 1998.


·   “The new CDMA mobile phone service will be available in any area presently served by an analogue AMPS base station — before that AMPS base station closes” and “CDMA will provide roughly the same coverage, but additional services ” — Acting Minister for Communications Peter McGauran, 28th January 1999.


·   “We support the transfer to the digital systems of GSM digital and CDMA digital”, and described CDMA technology as an “affordable, Rolls Royce mobile telephone system” Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, House of Representatives, June 1999.


·  “ The extension of the CDMA network.. .brings with it a new era in cellular communications, offering at least comparable coverage to the old analogue service ”— Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, 25th October 1999.


“These comments are in stark contrast to those of Acting Prime Minister Anderson last week, who acknowledged that many people who had signed up for CDMA services “faced real problems”, referred to “significant reception problems” and suggested t hat mobile users “hang on to their analogue phone”, “Mr Smith said.


“I welcome this belated recognition of real, practical issues, and trust that the Government will now set its mind to ensuring as smooth a transition to digital technology as possible.


“It is unquestionably the case that the move from analogue mobile networks to digitalis sensible public policy, as digital technology offers superior services and security, particularly for rural and regional Australia.


“What is essential now is appropriate monitoring and management of the transition process.


“Any sensible and effective measures to ensure as smooth a transition as possible will have my support,” Mr Smith concluded.


Media Inquiries:

Patrick Bindon  0418 694 878 or (08) 9377 3355


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