The federal government welcomed Telstra's plans to build a new IP network and roll out third-generation (3G) mobile phone services nationwide but discredited claims it was responsible for any job losses.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan described rural and regional customers as the "big winners" from the 3G rollout. The future network was part of a host of plans presented yesterday by Telstra chief Solomon Trujillo, as he detailed his strategic review of the company.
Trujillo, who took up the role of CEO in July, said the carrier's mobile networks -- including the widespread CDMA network -- would remain in operation until the 3G GSM service has "the same or better coverage and services".
The carrier claims that "recent technology breakthroughs" mean 3G GSM services on the 850 MHz spectrum can cover greater distances than the 2100 MHz frequency, which is currently used by the carrier.
"At 850 MHz, 3G services can be provided over the CDMA footprint without the need for building extra base stations to extend the reach of faster services," the carrier said, claiming the network could deliver speeds of up to 14 Mbps.
But Coonan also warned Telstra to make sure rolling out a new network would not disadvantage residents: "The government requires Telstra to maintain digital mobile phone coverage to replicate the coverage of the old analogue network as a condition of its carrier licence."
Coonan said the Government would "ensure that Telstra meets its legal obligations to provide mobile phone coverage to regional, rural and remote areas".
Senator Coonan also responded to claims by Labor that Telstra's decision to reduce its 52,000-strong workforce by between 10,000-12,000 over the next five years, was the Government's fault.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley yesterday said: "This is the result of privatisation. We in the Labor Party stood up in the Federal Parliament and said that was what would happen… John Howard got up and said that we were exaggerating and scaremongering. That's exactly the word he used ... Well, look what's happened."
But Coonan told ABC Radio that people had to accept that "the Government doesn't run Telstra".
"We're very hopeful that people will be relocated throughout the telecommunications environment," said Coonan, adding that services to the bush would be protected despite the job cuts because of safeguards placed upon Telstra by the Government.
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