Telstra kicks off regional upgrade

Telstra will repair or replace 1,000 cable joints, migrate hundreds of customers onto NextG Wireless Local Loop services, increase stocks of replacement equipment to bring down fault repair time frames, and replace 200 batteries in exchanges and cabinets.

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(Image: Telstra)

Telstra has announced a program of work to upgrade and maintain its services in regional Australia.

In a blog post, Telstra CEO Andy Penn said that while Telstra meets its Universal Services Obligation (USO) standards, some customers do have to "wait longer than they should" for services to be restored.

"I understand the frustration this can cause, particularly where there are no other options. We are therefore expanding our regional maintenance plan further to address the primary sources of regional faults so we can provide a better, more reliable service for our customers," Penn said.

"This includes the proactive repair of cable joints, which can be a common cause of faults in the regional network, migrating customers from less reliable networks using outdated technology to more reliable networks, and the pro-active replacement of batteries in exchanges."

Specifically, Telstra will be repairing or replacing 1,000 cable joints and some cabling on the worst-performing cables; migrating 350 customers off its old high-capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) network onto NextG Wireless Local Loop (NGWL) telephone services; and replacing around 200 batteries in exchanges and roadside cabinets where mains power failures occur frequently.

"We are also improving stock levels of equipment so our field teams can respond faster when something goes wrong," Penn added.

Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie welcomed the announcement, saying landlines will be made more reliable in regional and rural areas.

"Landlines are a lifeline for many regional Australians, and repeat faults and long repair timeframes are just not good enough and are significant pain points for those living in regional, rural, and remote areas," McKenzie said.

"For some, a landline service is their only connection to the outside world and can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is essential these services are reliable, and that any issues are fixed quickly."

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said "some of the issues" outlined in the Regional Telecommunications Review will be addressed by the program, including extended faults and repair time frames.

"Many of our members have been adversely impacted by a deteriorating landline service that is often not fixed within the specified Customer Service Guarantee timeframe," she said.

"This was recognised by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, who said in their final report that they were 'appalled' at some of the excessive repair times reported for landline services, which extended through weeks and even months in some cases."

ACMA scam project terms set

The Australian government has also released the terms of reference for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) program working to reduce scam activity on telco networks.

Under the terms of reference [PDF], published on Wednesday, the ACMA will consider existing and emerging technologies that enable scams; existing, new, and emerging technology that could reduce scams; costs and benefits of potential solutions; implementation issues; timing; and international approaches.

The ACMA is also set to have regard to "the importance of communications networks for the economic and social development of all Australians"; current scam policy and regulation; international programs that are supported by governments, industry, and consumers; research on consumer concerns about scams being perpetrated over telco networks; stakeholder opinions; and the costs to consumers and industry of any solutions.

Scams being delivered over the internet, such as online dating or online shopping scams, are not within the scope of the project.

The ACMA, which is also working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the project, is set to release a discussion paper in the next few weeks. A final report is due in December.

"Scam calls are more than a nuisance. They pose a real threat, particularly to those in vulnerable circumstances such as older people," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said in December, with the ACMA saying recent research found that 50 percent of adults in Australia received scam calls weekly or even daily.

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