Home & Office

Telstra takes Optus to court over network size ads

Telstra is seeking a court injunction against Optus for ads claiming that the SingTel company's network is close to the same size as Telstra's mobile network.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Telstra wants the Supreme Court to rule that Optus is misleading the public with a new advertisement claiming that the two companies' mobile networks cover almost the same amount of the Australian land mass.

The visual in the ad Telstra claims is misleading.
Image: Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet

According to court documents filed by Telstra today, and seen by ZDNet, the issue is over an advertisement (removed after the publication of this article) from Optus airing since January 29 that Optus' mobile network covers 98.5 percent of the Australian population, while Telstra's covers 99.3 percent.

While Telstra does not dispute the claim of the population coverage, the telco giant claims the ad is misleading because it places the two coverage percentages in a map of Australia, potentially inferring that the networks cover between 98 and 99 percent of the Australian land mass.

Telstra said in the statement of claim that its network covers 2.3 million square kilometres, or about 28 percent of the Australian landmass, while Optus' network covers about 1 million square kilometres.

"The difference between the geographic coverage of the Telstra Mobile Network, and that of the Optus Mobile Network is material and substantial."

For that reason, Telstra claims that Optus is in breach of Australian Consumer Law in the Competition and Consumer Act, and that Telstra has "suffered loss and damage" with customers choosing Optus over Telstra on the basis of the ad.

Lawyers for Telstra originally wrote to Optus asking for the advertisement to be removed, but Optus refused, according to the statement of claim.

Telstra is seeking an injunction today from the court for Optus to cease airing the ad.

A Telstra spokesperson said Optus should be clearer about the extent of its mobile network coverage.

"In their latest TV commercial, they have tried to create the impression their network coverage is, to quote their words, 'less than 1 percent' smaller than Telstra's.

"This is plainly false. The difference in geographic coverage is literally many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. It's a reality anyone venturing beyond cities or using their phone in back bedrooms and car parks understands."

Optus vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs David Epstein said the company has been "consistent and transparent" in its advertising about network sizes.

"Telstra is seeking an injunction regarding our recent advertising campaign in which they are challenging the visual representation of our reach metric in a specific advertisement," he said in a statement.

"We have been consistent and transparent in how we communicate the less than 1 percent difference in the population reach of the Optus mobile network compared to Telstra's, and we will defend this position."

Editorial standards