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Seven smaller Australian telcos have half of all complaints referred to TIO: ACMA

Complaints might be lower, but at least on one metric, seven telcos are running in the opposite direction.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Telco complaints are down 17% across Australia per 10,000 services to a total of just under 1.1 million, but the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found the time taken for complaints to be resolved is spiking.

Since the 2018-19 fiscal year, the weighted average days to resolve a complaint has moved from 8.2 days to 12.2 in 2020-21. Across 32 telcos measured in its report, ACMA found the median interval was 4.1 days, and the average was 5.4 days -- numbers that were essentially steady compared to last year.

The rate of complaints needing to be referred to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judy Jones, who will be leaving the post in March next year, has increased by 1.4 percentage points to 10.7% in the past year.

"This suggests that some telcos are not handling complaints at all well, and other smaller telcos are in fact not recording complaints at all," ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron said.

"Seven smaller telcos have absurdly high escalation rates, just above 50%, which indicates that some complaints are not being recorded in the first place and only being logged when escalated to the TIO."

The seven telcos were not named in ACMA's report, with the regulator saying it would be following up with the seven outfits.

Overall, the number of complaints about NBN broadband dropped 36% to 84 per 10,000 services, with the most complained about technology being fibre to the basement (FttB) with 147 per 10,000 services, fibre to the curb (FttC) with 119, HFC with 93, and fibre to the node (FttN) with 77 complaints per 10,000 services.

However, the change in complaints was down across all NBN technologies, FttB was down 22%, FttC dropped 43%, HFC fell 53%, and FttN was down 28%.

The least complained about NBN connectivity, satellite, had 27 complaints per 10,000 services and saw a fall in complaints of 59%.

By category, of the 263,000 complaints related to the NBN, 92,700 were classed as other, 86,500 were related to faults, 68,400 were classed as connection complaints, and only 15,600 were related to speed.

On Monday, the company responsible for the National Broadband Network revealed the allocation of its portable assets for what it termed as Australia's "disaster season".

The company said it gained 58 new pieces of temporary infrastructure, at a value of AU$6 million. The pieces include multi-tech trailers that have a generator, battery, optional solar for power, and can connect to fibre to the node network, as well as have fixed wireless and HFC as a "bolt on"; wireless mast trailers that can replicate an 18-metre wireless network tower; hybrid power cubes that have generator, battery, and solar to keep fixed wireless towers operational when grid power is lost; and network on wheels trailers that operate as a small exchange to support all NBN technologies other than satellite.

Victoria walked away with a pair of multi-tech trailers, a wireless mast trailer, and 10 hybrid power cubes; NSW received the same, minus the wireless mast trailer; Western Australia also received the same trailers as Victoria, but only four cubes; Queensland was allocated one network on wheels trailer, a pair of multi-tech trailers, and eight cubes; South Australia is much the same as Queensland but has five cubes; Tasmania gets three cubes, one network trailer, and one multi-tech trailer, and the Northern Territory gets one network trailer and one multi-tech trailer.

NBN added it would be rolling out up to 2,000 disaster satellite service sites at emergency management sites and evacuation centres to offer satellite connectivity during an emergency.

At the start of the month, NBN announced it was starting what it called a Remote Community COVID Emergency Wireless Trial that was looking at temporary connectivity for regional and remote locations with a majority Indigenous population.

"At the request of the Central Darling Council and the local community, NBN Co and our partners are installing a temporary community Wi-Fi solution to areas of Wilcannia to support the community during the COVID-19 health emergency. It will support local people's access online education and social services and is currently planned to be in place for approximately 90 days," an NBN spokesperson told ZDNet.

"We have worked closely with community elders and leaders, the local council and the NSW Department of Education on the solution and where it will be located. Nominated households will be supplied by the participating RSP the equipment they need to connect. NBN Co will not charge the RSP for the Wi-Fi solution to be provided."

Households needed to be nominated by council to receive a self-installed Wi-Fi kit.

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