The Communications Minister must heed the concerns of regional consumers in South Australia and elsewhere and put on hold Telstra’s planned CDMA network switch off, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
“Poor network coverage, conflicting advice from Telstra on handsets and poor levels of service are all among concerns related to me by South Australians about making the transition to Telstra’s Next G™ network,” Senator Birmingham said.
Senator Birmingham in January invited South Australians to report their experiences and concerns, following the Communications Minister’s decision to push back by three months to 28 April 2008 the planned switch off of the CDMA network.
“Dozens of people have related to me their concerns, which I have forwarded to Telstra and the Minister,” Senator Birmingham said. ”The extent of concerns makes it clear that the transition to Next G™ has not been an easy one, and that many people are still not receiving equivalent coverage.
“Under a licence condition imposed by the former Liberal Government to protect consumers, Telstra can’t close its CDMA network until it satisfies the Minister that its Next G™ network provides equivalent coverage.
“There are enough examples of people being able to make calls on the CDMA network, but not on the Next G™ network from the same location, to suggest there is more work to be done before it is safe to switch off CDMA.
“Effective mobile phone services are particularly critical in regional, rural and remote communities – where pay phones are few and far between – including in the safe and effective management of many farming properties.
“With the Minister having stated he’d make a decision probably this week, I look forward to him ensuring the licence condition on equivalent coverage is met and to Telstra and the Minister addressing the concerns of South Australians in regional, rural and remote areas.
“Telstra’s efforts and willingness to ensure that no customers are disadvantaged by making the switch to Next G™ are welcome, but equally the Government has an important role in ensuring licence conditions are met and service provision maintained.”