ACMA to audit Telstra's mobile coverage

Service area under spotlight

An independent audit will be carried out to benchmark Telstra's mobile phone coverage across Australia.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today released a request for tender (RFT) to undertake an audit of Telstra's CDMA and WCDMA networks.

The focus of the audit is to ensure Telstra complies with its publicly-stated commitment that 3G coverage will exceed or at least be equivalent to existing CDMA coverage especially in regional areas.

The RFT follows an announcement by IT Minister Helen Coonan in August that the ACMA will be responsible for coordinating the independent audits.

The audit will compare Telstra's CDMA mobile phone network, which was installed in 2000 to replace the analogue service, with its new 3GSM network (otherwise known as WCDMA).

The new 3G WCDMA mobile phone network is being deployed by Telstra to replace its existing CDMA network for more extensive coverage in rural areas of Australia.

As part of the RFT a contractor is being sought to test the voice coverage at pre-identified sites provided by the existing CDMA network and by the WCDMA network once the rollout is sufficiently advanced.

ACMA's preferred method is through field measurement in the representative areas.

In a background brief announcing the tender, the ACMA states: "CDMA networks are better suited technically than GSM networks to provide extensive coverage from a given set of base stations. It is anticipated that the new 3G (or Wideband CDMA - WCDMA) network will continue to provide this extensive coverage.

The 3G network will use the existing Telstra base station infrastructure. So the roll-out is an equipment roll-out rather than one that requires a major development of new sites. The transition from CDMA to 3G is considerably less complex than the previous transition from AMPS to CDMA, because of the similar technical characteristics of CDMA and 3G."

Rollout of the new 3G network is well underway and will reach completion by 2008.

The ACMA is also participating in a process that monitors the closure of the existing Telstra CDMA network and its replacement to 3G.

Senator Coonan requested the ACMA monitor the changeover in recognition of the government's ongoing commitment to try and improve telecommunications services in rural Australia.

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