ABC South East NSW - Rural Report - More audits of Telstra's Next G System
Friday 15th June 2007
Keva Gocher: The federal Communications Minister has responded to rural community uproar about Telstra's plans to switch off its CDMA mobile network by ordering more audits of its new Next G system.
Now this is an interesting one, isn't it? There's a lot of ads on television at the moment, a lot of pressure some people are feeling to switch over to this and MPs, members of parliament, have complained on behalf of their constituents to the Government saying that the audits of the network were only going to be in a few states and wouldn't really check Telstra's claims that the Next G was ready.
Well, now the Minister, Helen Coonan, has told Jane Barden the Minister is starting to doubt Telstra's plans to switch off the old network early next year and she's asked for audits in every state.
Helen Coonan: The reason that I've done that, Jane, is that I've received a lot of complaints and a lot of concerns have been expressed to me that the new Next G is not providing, at the moment, a very good service.
Reporter: Has it taken really some independent MPs like Tony Windsor to start really creating a bit of a political fuss on this for you to actually go to this level?
Helen Coonan: Well, Tony Windsor hasn't actually been in touch with me so far as I'm aware but the concern is well beyond parliamentarians and the level of concern is such that I want to make sure that Telstra has an opportunity firstly to totally deploy the Next G network, then the audits can be conducted and my taskforce that I set up last year to arrange the changeover can be satisfied that it won't go ahead - that's the assurance I've been given by Telstra - unless the coverage not only improves but is at least as good as if not better than the current CDMA network.
Reporter: So how many audits will there be now and what states or what areas are they going to be held in?
Helen Coonan: It will now happen in every state and the Northern Territory and will be sampled over the coming months so it will be quite extensive and that will be necessary in order to provide the necessary assurance that the coverage is there.
Reporter: Are we talking…
Helen Coonan: And I'm having current discussions with Telstra about their time limits. I'm very concerned that they're advertising that the switch-off will be at the beginning of next year and I'm concerned that the audits may not have been able to be completed just after the network has been deployed. So for all of these reasons we're all over this and absolutely determined that you won't get the network switched off until we get the right coverage.
Reporter: Does it concern you that Telstra is saying really that Next G is ready and that it's only still got a few little refinements to make and yet there is just a raft of customers who've switched over in rural areas who say that they are getting very poor service?
Helen Coonan: Look, I think it's a concern and I think that Telstra needs to be able to insure us that the network is fully deployed. Currently they've said that it's not fully deployed and they're going to have to do that. Now, at the end of the day, if it's not sufficient I can also put in place a licencen advice but be aware that if their Next G handset doesn't work according to their satisfaction that they have an arrangement with their dealers that it can be returned. I mean, that would be something that I would think would be appropriate for somebody taking on a handset, not sure of its capabilities.
Keva Gocher: Communications - federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan, speaking with our national rural reporter, Jane Barden.