Telstra cannot close CDMA til April: Minister

update Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has ruled Telstra cannot close its CDMA network until at least 28 April, 2008.

update Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy has ruled Telstra cannot close its CDMA network until at least 28 April, 2008.

The telco had been scheduled to switch off the CDMA network on 28 January, after its own internal audits showed the replacement Next G network now has equal or better coverage.

However, Conroy decreed that he is "not in a position to declare equivalence between the Next G network and the CDMA networks" and mandated that the 2G network must remain open for at least three more months.

Conroy said his decision had been informed by an audit conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, examining Next G coverage, which was delivered last week. While the audits found coverage broadly parallel between the two networks, the Minister said other issues must be resolved before the switchoff could be authorised.

Prior to the audit, former Communications Minister Helen Coonan declared that Next G has "enormous problems" and set up a government helpline for bush users to report coverage blackspots.

However, Senator Conroy said he expected Telstra to be able to resolve all ongoing issues with the Next G network by the April deadline.

"Telstra will provide me with advice within two weeks on how they will address the issues that have been identified, and report to me on the rectification to enable me to reconsider this matter," Conroy said in a statement.

"Telstra have advised me that this can be done by 28 April. This seems reasonable, subject to me a receiving a report that comprehensively addresses my concerns and consumers should work on the basis that the CDMA network will be switched off."

Telstra said it will work with the government to fix any remaining issues and welcomed the migration path set out by the Minister.

In most cases, customers now have better coverage with Next G than under the CDMA network, according to Telstra's Country Wide group MD Geoff Booth.

"Where they don't we specifically want to hear from them because they are the customers we want to deal with and make sure they have the right network in place and the right handsets in place," he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister has requested that Telstra be more active in informing consumers of any coverage issues with Next G handsets.

"We expect Telstra to advertise a phone number that customers can ring to get these issues resolved," Conroy concluded.

AAP contributed to this report.