Telstra claims its Next-G Network has already surpassed the coverage of its national CDMA network some four months ahead of its CDMA switch-off date which is set for January 28, 2008.
Telstra's claims are also two weeks ahead of a network coverage announcement on October 15, 2007, which will announce the results of network audits undertaken to ensure Next G has the equivalent or better coverage results of the CDMA network. network coverage announcement.
Telstra public affairs manager Peter Taylor said a network switch-over is already technically possible because Next-G has a greater coverage area than the CDMA network..
"Next-G covers two million square kilometres, and our CDMA network covers 1.6 million square kilometres; it has met our October 15 deadline," Taylor said.
But despite Telstra's confidence that the switch-off can go ahead, Federal ICT Minister Helen Coonan issued a license condition last month requiring Telstra maintain its CDMA network until there is proof its HSDPA Next-G network can provide a better service.
She said the draft license, now mediated by Attorney General Philip Ruddock, was issued to alleviate government concerns the telco is cutting it too fine to meet the CDMA switch-off date.
Like Coonan, customers are skeptical about whether the Next G Network is up to scratch with Computerworld reader Brook Papworth pointing out that coverage is patchy.
As an airline pilot, network coverage is serious business for Papworth, who claims there are "serious holes" in Next G coverage where CDMA is operational.
But Telstra'sTaylor said these "small patches" will be covered over the coming months.
"I have noticed serious holes in Next-G even with good handsets in many national parks, where CDMA still provides coverage," according to Papworth who resides in northern NSW.
"As a pilot, a reliable CDMA phone could literally be the difference between life and death to a downed aircraft or a stricken water vessel with malfunctioning [location transmitters].
"The government [should] do an independent audit using a blue tick Next-G phone in [these] areas."
According to Papworth, areas in northern NSW covered by CDMA but lack Next-G reception include Bilambil Heights, Terranora, and the Pacific Highway between Tweed heads and Byron bay.
She said seven national parks on both sides of the Queensland-NSW border also lack Next-G coverage, but are covered by CDMA.
IDC research analyst Jerson Yau said while Telstra has the financial backing to meet the January 28 deadline, aggressive tactics will be required to migrate the one million CDMA subscribers over the next four months.
"They will have to be doggedly aggressive in expanding their Next-G network and successfully converting their CDMA subscribers, while simultaneously being incredibly mindful and sensitive to the expectations that they have set in the mobile market and with their customers," Yau said.
"Managing the customer relationship will be imperative and overshadow managing the integrity and coverage of the new network, or else they will risk customer dissatisfaction and churn to a competitor."