Aust telcos in dock over base station consultation

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) today sent a shot across Telstra and Hutchison 3G Australia's bows after it was found that each had installed mobile base-stations without consulting surrounding communities.The regulator said the carriers' actions breached Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) codes for the installation of new telecommunications facilities and warned them that it would consider new regulations if they didn't improve their community consultation efforts.

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) today sent a shot across Telstra and Hutchison 3G Australia's bows after it was found that each had installed mobile base-stations without consulting surrounding communities.

The regulator said the carriers' actions breached Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) codes for the installation of new telecommunications facilities and warned them that it would consider new regulations if they didn't improve their community consultation efforts.

"What is at stake is the public confidence in proper and adequate consultation in the deployment of communications infrastructure, and the ACA is concerned to ensure that carriers honour their commitments," said ACA acting chairman, Dr Bob Horton.

The acting chairman also warned the pair that they could face fines of up to AU$250,000 if they failed to comply with ACA directions to rectify their behaviour.

The ACA said the alleged breaches took place at the beachside suburb of Cogee in NSW and Camberwell in Victoria.

In Cogee, Telstra breached four ACIF codes and attracted the community's ire when it failed to tell the local council of its intention to install CDMA antenna panels on a commercial building facing residential properties.

However, while the tone of the ACA's statement today carried a certain sting, the regulator's radio communications standards manager Ian McAlister, reserved some praise for Telstra.

He said Telstra had done a remarkable job of keeping complaints down given the size and speed of its equipment roll-out since the code was put in place early in 2003.

The ACA said it had received a total of 160 complaints regarding mobile equipment facilities from a potential 2,500 installation sites.

However, 110 of them pertained to a single site in Western Australia, with the remaining 40 to 50 complaints concerned a group of 12 sites dotted across the country.

The ACIF codes are enforced as part of the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Both Hutchison 3G Australia and Telstra have been involved in disputes with councils across Australia. The disputes concern provisions of the legislation that allow carriers to override local planning laws if their equipment fits within the Federal government's low impact determination. In all but one case courts have come down in favour of carriers.

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