ACMA's Telstra 3G audit favours eastern states

Australia's communications regulator will carry out its testing overwhelmingly in the populous eastern states, particularly New South Wales, as it judges whether Telstra's new national 3G mobile network provides equal coverage to the previous CDMA one. The coverage of the 3G network -- dubbed "Next G" and launched several weeks ago -- is being closely watched, as there are concerns the network will not match previous CDMA coverage, particularly in rural areas.

Australia's communications regulator will carry out its testing overwhelmingly in the populous eastern states, particularly New South Wales, as it judges whether Telstra's new national 3G mobile network provides equal coverage to the previous CDMA one.

The coverage of the 3G network -- dubbed "Next G" and launched several weeks ago -- is being closely watched, as there are concerns the network will not match previous CDMA coverage, particularly in rural areas. Telstra will start switching off CDMA in 2008.

In August, Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan handed the task of comparing the two networks to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

But in tender documents issued today calling for industry help with the audit, the regulator revealed it would conduct its testing mainly in New South Wales and Southern Queensland, with a handful of sites in Victoria and a slight detour over the South Australian border.

The survey will be completed in areas along the following geographical route: Penrith to Goolgowi, to Mildura, to Broken Hill, to Bourke, to St George, to Tenterfield, to Singleton, to Penrith.

A spokesperson for the regulator had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

However, in the tender documents ACMA said the audit would be carried out in "representative areas as determined by ACMA".

"The chosen route satisfied technical (mainly radiowave propagation) criteria, taking in flat, mountainous and 'average' terrain, as well as wet rice-growing country and river flats," the documents state.

"The route also takes in coverage in urban, suburban and rural populations in four mainland states. The route was planned using Telstra's published CDMA and GSM coverage maps, with a view to verifying coverage areas that have existing CDMA but very little or nil GSM coverage."

The route mainly focused on rural and remote areas, according to ACMA, where "coverage is likely to be a community issue.... It includes 85 representative areas, that could be surveyed within about 10 days and covering a total distance of about 4000km," the regulator said.

The regulator said it would test voice coverage, conducting field measurements using suitable equipment, probably from a vehicle, although it was open to alternative methods.

The CDMA audit is due to be start in December this year or early next year, with the equivalent 3G audit to be done in the final quarter of the 2007 calendar year.

The federal government will use ACMA's audit to assess Telstra's 3G network, as well as other sources of information.

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