Telstra cannot close CDMA without Australian government permission

Australian government stops operator Telstra from turning off its CDMA network until its next-gen replacement is proven to be better
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

The spat between Telstra and Communications Minister Helen Coonan has cranked up a notch, with the government introducing a draft guideline to prevent the telco switching off its CDMA network until its Next G replacement is deemed equal or better in coverage.

Senator Coonan and other government representatives have repeatedly voiced fears over the performance of the network, with the Minister writing to Telstra to request a delay in the CDMA switch-off.

The Minister said in a statement the government's hand has been forced by Telstra's "inaction" on reported Next G problems. "I have just spent the last six weeks on the road across Australia and based on the level of frustration in the community, it is clear that this issue needs Telstra’s urgent and genuine attention," Senator Coonan said.

The government has now opened a Next G Support Unit, which will run a phone line--1800 883 488--for users to give details of any network problems they experience, as well as carrying out an audit on Telstra's Next G device line.

The telco plans to shut down its CDMA network in January and has itself stated its 3G Next-Gen network will equal or beat the performance of CDMA by that point.

However, according to Senator Coonan, government intervention is necessary due to questions on the timeline of the switch off.

Telstra has said it will not be able to provide coverage details until October which, the Minister said, will not allow sufficient time before the January switch-off date for the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to carry out audits and government reviews to be conducted, in order to determine if Telstra has met its obligations.

A Telstra spokesperson said the guideline will have no impact on the company: "This is no different to what we've been saying for over a year now--that Next G will be equal or better to CDMA."

The government has given Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo 30 days to comment on the draft guideline.

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