Landline complaints surge, NBN nearly fault-free: TIO

Landline complaints surge, NBN nearly fault-free: TIO

Summary: Telecommunications customers complained about problems with their landline Internet services at an increasing rate during 2012-2013, new TIO statistics reveal, while NBN complaints were few and far between.


Official complaints about landline telecommunications services surged by 18.3% during the 2012-13 year while NBN customers had “very few” problems with the services, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Simon Cohen has revealed as he released the latest statistics about the industry dispute-resolution body’s activities during 2012-13.

Consumers complained about 18,963 Internet fault-related issues during the year – equivalent to 52 new reports every day – about fully unusable services (up 24% year-on-year to 4811 issues), slow data speeds (up 16.5% to 4324 issues), and dropouts (up 10.6% to 3330 issues).

Landline complaints surged in 2012-13: TIO. Photo: David Braue

Faults over landlines – predominantly delivered over Telstra’s copper network – increased 19.4% to 9553 issues, comprising half of all Internet-related problems. Specific issues included fully unusable services (up 23.9% to 3390 issues) and recurring or intermittent faults (up 1.1% to 1340 issues).

Steady growth in the number of landline services was in contrast to the “very few complaints” about NBN Co and its broadband services, Cohen said.

Of those issues raised by consumers to the TIO, many related to poor performance over the company’s interim satellite service, while others complained about NBN retail service providers (RSPs) missing installation appointments and suffering other delays in getting connected to the NBN.

“Most of the matters that concern NBN Co directly have been enquiries to us, with people ringing with questions about when the NBN might be coming to their area and when they might have access to those services,” Cohen said. “The numbers of complaints are very small, and that reflects the limited rollout of the NBN during the 2012-2013 financial year.”

Cohen’s reports corroborate recent claims by iiNet CTO John Lindsay that Telstra’s copper network was “in a dilapidated state” in many places and that iiNet’s fibre NBN customers – 60% of whom are first-time iiNet customers – were experiencing “very, very low” fault rates as they signed up for high-speed NBN services.

Systemic problems in fault resolution were a significant part of the problem, Lindsay told the recent CommsDay Melbourne Congress. “It’s not so much that Telstra copper can’t actually be put into good order to provide VDSL2 service if there’s actually the demand to do that,” he said. “It’s more the challenge that wholesale customers of Telstra – and even, observably, retail customers of Telstra – have in getting copper faults fixed.”

Some 4710 complainants reported delays in new Internet connections – up 58% over the previous year – while 3743 claimed delays in new landline connections – up 40% over the previous year.

Some 4710 complainants reported delays in new Internet connections – up 58% over the previous year – while 3743 claimed delays in new landline connections – up 40% over the previous year.

Fault-related issues comprised 37.3% of all new complaints to the TIO, well behind customer service issues (52.9%) and billing and payments problems (42.7%).

Despite the surge in landline issues, however, overall Cohen was satisfied with the sector’s overall performance during the year – particularly crediting the staggered introduction of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code that has forced telcos to address unexpected costs and improve transparency around billing rates, roaming charges, and customer service.

The 2012-2013 figures were the lowest in five years, led by a decline in mobile-related complaints that Cohen attributed to concerted efforts by telecoms-industry CEOs to prioritise customer service within their organisational cultures.

Topics: Telcos, Broadband, Data Roaming Charges, Optus, Telstra, NBN, Australia


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • I'd hope NBN issues were low

    Given that the NBN is brand spanking new infrastructure, it should be reporting very few faults. It also represents only a very small fraction of users.
    Fred Fredrickson
    • I'd agree, except that

      there has been a high proportion of problems with fixed-wireless NBN. In fact, a large proportion of fixed-wireless NBN business users in some locations reverted to ADSL. I am not sure whether the low number of complaints about the NBN reflects that the problems were resolved, or, that the previous users have remain on ADSL and have not returned to the NBN.
      • Apparently

        the TIO disagrees with your opinion.
        • This article says nothing about fixed wirless NBN

          I know that my comments are absolutely correct because I have spoken to the researcher who went into the affected communities. If you have any evidence that proves that the researcher is wrong then I am sure that we would like to hear it.
        • Oh, and just for a bit more fun

          I have a copy of the researcher's report!
    • True on both counts

      Except that the FTTN patchwork will be dependant on that last section of copper and faults will no longer be on the basis of PSTN performance only.
      The 25MB guaranteed minimum will be an eye opener, especially as the shining example BT with their better quality, better maintained copper and higher density will only quote an 8Mb minimum service on VDSL, in fact from reading comments in the UK, it appears that B.T does not class a VDSL service that is only operating at 2MB as faulty.

      True planning for the future with the wild false assumption that all innovation and advancement originates from the upper class
      Abel Adamski