Telstra CEO Penn pushes NBN customer satisfaction

Telstra has announced its new in-home Wi-Fi coverage booster and 30-day NBN satisfaction guarantee, with CEO Andy Penn saying current pricing is 'unsustainable' for retailers.

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(Image: Telstra)

Telstra CEO Andy Penn has said Australia's incumbent telecommunications carrier is focused on ensuring the quality of its National Broadband Network (NBN) connections for customers, with the chief executive emphasising his "strong view that wholesale service standards are regulated" in terms of both speeds and pricing.

"Our position has always been to ensure adequate capacity through the use of robotics in our network to measure congestion and provision CVCs," Penn explained while speaking during the CommsDay Summit on Monday morning, referring to the telco's connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) capacity robots.

"Following the ACCC's guidelines on speeds last year, we have aligned our approach to their methodology to ensure our investment in CVCs is sufficient to deliver our customers a minimum of 80 percent of their maximum line speed during peak times. In fact, today we are delivering an average of more than 85 percent during peak times."

The second NBN issue is affordability, Penn added, saying it is "critical" that the wholesale pricing is set at a level that ensures broadband affordability for all Australians.

"In the migration to the NBN, wholesale broadband prices have more than doubled and are set to increase even further. That increase has so far been absorbed by the retail service providers, but to the point where providing an NBN service is uneconomic for the industry. This is unsustainable, and ultimately the model has to change otherwise it will lead to higher long-term prices for customers," Penn said.

"This is bad for NBN, bad for the industry, but most of all it is bad for customers because it will impact affordability and Australia's competitiveness. We have to do better than this if we are to create a country that is more digitally enabled and more digitally savvy. We need broadband that is fast, reliable, accessible, and affordable regardless of the technology that it delivers."

Part of its aim to improve NBN experience is Telstra's newly launched Smart Wi-Fi Booster to improve in-home coverage, with the telco on Monday simultaneously announcing its 30-day consumer satisfaction guarantee.

According to Telstra, it is now so "confident in the reliability of our NBN service" that it has begun offering a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, meaning customers can exit their contract without fees if they are unhappy with the service in the first month of being connected.

The Smart Wi-Fi Booster, meanwhile, is powered by a dual-core CPU with an auto-sensing 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet WAN/LAN port, MediaTek MTK7621A Wireless network card, dual-band concurrent Wi-Fi, 256QAM support, Wi-Fi Band steering, four transmit and four receive antennas across both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and costs AU$180 outright or AU$7.50 per month on a 24-month contract.

"The booster, which is the first of its kind to be offered by an Australian provider, is affordable and easy to set up, and features the latest Wi-Fi technology to seamlessly connect household devices to the strongest and fastest Wi-Fi source," Telstra head of Fixed Products Jana Kotatko added on Monday.

"The Smart Wi-Fi Booster essentially acts like a second modem, so if you're browsing the web or making a call over Wi-Fi while moving around the house, it will automatically switch to the stronger Wi-Fi signal."

Telstra tested the booster in 100 houses, saying the "vast majority of participants saw a lift in their Wi-Fi speeds and coverage, with 80 percent also reporting an improvement in streaming video performance".

The product comes in a set of two, with one booster to be connected to the modem and the other to be located in the area of the home where coverage begins dropping off "but is still relatively strong", with its Telstra Home Dashboard app to assist customers in choosing this location.

Telstra noted that the booster can also be used to connect outdoor sensors as part of its Smart Home offerings.

Also speaking on 5G on Monday, Penn said it is "crucial" the government gets its policy settings right ahead of the new technology, with the 3.6GHz spectrum being auctioned off later this year to be made available to carriers as soon as it's sold and millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum auctions to be held "as early as possible" next year.

Penn added that Telstra is looking to deploy the 4G 2Gbps speed capabilities it showcased during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February into its network, as well as ensuring its rural coverage continues growing.

According to the chief executive, under the mobile blackspot program -- through which Telstra was last week allocated another 89 sites last week for round three -- Telstra is turning on a new tower nearly every single day from now until end of year; 40 towers will go live this month alone, he said.

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