A bunch of pushy Federal MPs have had their way and some of the most sparsely populated backblocks of Australia will be surveyed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in a special test to check on Telstra.

Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Northern Queensland and Tasmania will be “mapped” in an ACMA audit of Telstra’s CDMA coverage. Some of these areas have few, if any inhabitants.

The mapping is being done to establish once and for all the exact strength and breadth of CDMA coverage ahead of Telstra turning off the network and replacing it with its new Next G digital network.

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The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, said last week that:

These additional audits will mean that every State and the Northern Territory will be sampled over the coming months. 

The audit process is an important assessment tool to ensure Telstra meets its own public commitment that it will not switch off the CDMA network until coverage on the Next G network is equivalent or better.

Senator Coonan last year directed the ACMA to undertake independent coverage audits of both the CDMA network and the Next G as a key part of verifying Telstra’s public assurance.

The initial coverage audits covered approximately 100 sites and focused on rural, regional and remote areas. In addition, the audit sites take into account the range of factors that have an impact on the transmission of mobile phone signals, for instance the coverage audits include mixed terrain including flat, mountainous and average terrain, wet rice-growing country and river flats.

But at Senate estimates hearings in Canberra last month, some Government Senators took exception to the lack of any audit in WA, North Queensland and Tasmania and have had a win over the regulator.

The truck that spent eight days driving hither and tither across rural NSW, southern Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, will be sent out again for another, longer road trip.

The price of not trusting Telstra.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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