Telstra kicks off Next G face-lift

Tempers flare over ACMA report

Telstra has launched the first of its Next G face-lifts required by the government since it blocked the CDMA switch-off last week.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy delayed the scheduled January 28 closure of the nine year-old network for three months, citing problems with the reception of network handsets and the proliferation of weaker handsets across the fringes of coverage areas.

Shadow communications minister Bruce Billson said he agreed with the government's veto of the CDMA switch-off but said customers should not be rushed into leaving CDMA.

The telco today launched a cash rebate as an incentive for CDMA customers to connect to the Next G network, alongside a customer service facility to assist Next G users with reception problems or those users who were sold inappropriate handsets.

Conflict flared between the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), charged with evaluating the readiness of Next G, and Telstra over how it should evaluate what Conroy called an "appropriate [Next G] handset".

ACMA hit back at Telstra claims that it should not have included standard Next G phones in its report handed to Conroy, arguing that regional Australians have poor network connectivity on non-Blue Tick phones.

"It introduced [the Blue Tick] in mid 2007, which is nearly nine months after the Next G network was launched and phones were first sold," it said.

"By the end of November 2007 Telstra's Next G network had more than two million customers. By December 27, Telstra had nearly 30 devices on the Next G network but only seven with the Blue Tick.

"Handsets which do not have a Blue Tick label have continued to be sold to consumers in rural and regional areas."

The ACMA believes Next G was not up to scratch in several parts of regional Australian including along the Queensland border, and towards Bourke.

Telstra labelled the ACMA report "flawed", "overstated" and based on "rudimentary data", arguing that "appropriate" handsets are those suitable to a region.

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