Telstra commits to improving regional service quality
Telstra has announced new investments aimed at improving the reliability of landline services in regional and rural Australia.
The company has committed to a program of work involving initiatives including repairing and replacing around 1000 cable joints on the worst-performing cables.
The program will also involve replacing around 200 batteries in exchange and roadside cabinets that are more susceptible to mains power failures, increasing stocks of pair gain units to reduce repair time delays, and migrating around 350 customers from Telstra’s ageing High Capacity Radio Concentrator (HCRC) network and onto its NextG Wireless Local Loop (NGWL) telephone service network.
The works program was devised based on the findings of the recent report from the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review committee, which reinforced the importance of fixed-line phone services for people living outside of cities.
The report made a number of recommendations on areas including improving fault times, improving digital literacy, and expanding the availability of mobile services.
“I understand the frustration [extended service restoration times] can cause, particularly where there are no other options. We are therefore expanding our regional maintenance plan further to address the primary sources of regional faults — so we can provide a better, more reliable service for our customers,” Telstra CEO Andy Penn said in an announcement.
“This includes the proactive repair of cable joints, which can be a common cause of faults in the regional network; migrating customers from less reliable networks using outdated technology to more reliable networks; and the proactive replacement of batteries in exchanges.”
Deputy Nationals Leader and Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie has welcomed Telstra’s announcement.
“Landlines are a lifeline for many regional Australians, and repeat faults and long-repair timeframes are just not good enough and are significant pain points for those living in regional, rural and remote areas,” she said.
“For some, a landline service is their only connection to the outside world and can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is essential these services are reliable, and that any issues are fixed quickly.”
Advocacy group the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) also welcomed the works program. Teresa Corbin, Chief Executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) — a RRRCC member — said the coalition strongly backs measures to improve service repair times, which she characterised as a pressing issue.
“Many of our members have been adversely impacted by a deteriorating landline service that is often not fixed within the specified Customer Service Guarantee timeframe,” she said.
“This was recognised by the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, who said in their final report that they were ‘appalled’ at some of the excessive repair times reported for landline services, which extended through weeks and even months in some cases.”
On the mobile side, Penn said Telstra has invested $2.2 billion in its regional mobile network in the past three years, and is continuing to spend on expanding and enhancing connectivity.
As an example, he said Telstra plans to install 500 mobile satellite small cells across regional Australia over the next three years.
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