Optus says it has to overcome decade-old perception it is lacking coverage

Alternatively, customers can also be in inner west Sydney, have double brick walls, and also get no coverage.

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Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin

Image: Optus

Optus on Wednesday said it has spent billions getting its coverage up to 98.5% of the population, which means it believes it can be competitive against Telstra in regional Australia.

The problem though, as CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin puts it, is the perception that the telco lacks coverage.

"Unless you're the 1.5% of Australians who are in the most remote areas, that you can make the choice to switch to Optus. And unfortunately, what we've found is that perception is very difficult to change," the CEO said on Wednesday.

"Everybody's got a cousin or a niece or somebody who tried the Optus network 10 years ago and didn't have coverage at some point."

Bayer Rosmarin said the Optus network was upgraded more recently than Telstra, and therefore has more capacity and better performance.

"The last bit we have to crack is the perception," she said.

But Optus might also want to handle the reality of its coverage too.

As a piece of anecdata, relatives from regional Australia over the weekend were unable to get mobile coverage inside this author's place of residence, which sits within 10 kilometres as the crow flies from the centre of Sydney. 

And the telco in question here that couldn't pierce the double brick walls? Of course, it was Optus. Tacking onto that, at the start of the year, I had the displeasure of being on Coles Mobile for six weeks, and had to take calls standing outside in the rain, such is the experience of Optus' miserable 4G indoor coverage in parts of inner west Sydney.

I'd posit that the perception of lack of coverage is very much reality for more than 1.5% of the population.

Earlier on Wednesday, Optus picked up 12 of the 16 lots of spectrum in the 850Mhz and 900Mhz bands for a total cost of AU$1.48 billion.

"Optus' increase in low-band spectrum announced today will increase our capabilities to propagate farther and penetrate through brick walls, much better than other 5G spectrums," the telco told ZDNet.

"In Optus' experience with 3G and 4G, this low-band spectrum will significantly improve coverage for our customers using mobile services inside buildings."

The telco also announced on Wednesday it was launching a beta to select customers of a call transcription feature in its My Optus app dubbed Call Notes.

The feature is invoked by saying "Hey Optus, take notes", with the transcription sent to the customer's device and deleted from Optus' servers once viewed.

Bayer Rosmarin said Call Notes was designed to be transparent, and "loved".

"It's not a surprise for the people that they're being recorded. The way that it works is when you ask Optus to take notes for you on the call, it says so. Everybody on the call hears that, and actually, the other person has to say yes, and agree."

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