Telstra hearing alarm bells over CDMA?

After years of discussions and months of government wrangling, it's finally time for Telstra to close down CDMA for good. So how will the telco go about switching off an entire network?

After years of discussions and months of government wrangling, it's finally time for Telstra to close down CDMA for good. So how will the telco go about switching off an entire network?

Mike Wright is Telstra's wireless executive director and will be overseeing the shutdown of the network — the sixth such closure for Wright.

Telstra's switch-off will be headed up from the company's global operation centre, which will be charged with progressively closing the network as it hits midnight across Australia's states.

While Wright is unsurprisingly not expecting any problems, the telco is hoping it won't hear alarm bells ringing.

"We have to take care of all the interconnected systems — billing and activation, SMS, MMS, prepaid, content platforms, roaming — it all has to be done in a coordinated manner. We can't just kick the plug out of the wall. It has to be a controlled back-out, or we risk an avalanche of alarms," Wright told ZDNet.com.au.

The alarms were initially put in place as performance monitoring tools, ready to alert Telstra staff if any of the critical systems went down.

After midnight on 28 April, new calls and voice on the network will be prevented, while existing connections will be allowed to continue up to 1am. Triple zero calls started before midnight will be allowed to carry on til their completion.

But the shutdown process won't stop on 28 April — according to Wright, it will be a "number of months" til there is no more work to be done on dismantling the CDMA network.

After the initial closure, Telstra will work on cutting the residual power to the base stations. Once decommissioned, the CDMA base stations will be examined for potential reuse, resale or recycling. "We'll go through the process of recovering the hardware... we'll use a third-party for that," Wright said.

The base stations won't be the only thing being recycled as a result of the CDMA network going dark. The floor space, backhaul capacity and spectrum previously occupied by CDMA will likely find a new home as Telstra moves towards MIMO.

Closing down the network will also allow Telstra to recycle the cash that would have been originally spent keeping the network operational — electricity, air conditioning, maintenance and so on. Major savings aren't, however, expected to come from the IT infrastructure used to support CDMA.

"Most of the savings will come from the IT transformation program," Wright added.

Telstra has so far refused to put a figure on the number of users who have yet to make the switch from CDMA to Next G. "We've been monitoring the network traffic and it's down to a trickle," Wright said.