The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released commentary and analysis on the telecommunications performance of Telstra, Optus and AAPT over the 2008/09 financial year.
The Telecommunications Performance Bulletin 2008-09 draws its findings from data provided by the three companies and covers performance in four areas: The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG); Priority assistance; Payphones; and the Network Reliability Framework (NRF).
ACMA noted in its findings that while the benchmarks are not mandated by law, it uses its own set to monitor performance in each category.
Throughout the financial year, an average of 98.72 per cent of Telstra's fixed line services went uninterrupted by a fault and services were available on average for 99.91 per cent of each month. The average repair time for faults dropped from 63 hours in the 07/08 financial year to 51 hours.
The fixed telephone network is evaluated under the NRF, which is a three-tier arrangement that looks at national and regional performance (level 1), localised area performance (level 2) and individual service performance (level 3).
For cable runs — the "disaggregated parts of the network" that come under level 2 of the NRF — Telstra met its targets. Of 497 cable runs receiving mediation and monitoring over the financial year, 98 per cent achieved a 90 per cent decrease in the volume of "network events" (in other words problems).
If Telstra had not achieved this result, it would have come under closer scrutiny by the ACMA during the next reporting period.
since late 2007, however, Telstra has reported a steady increase in the number of individual services that are hit by a fault on four or more occasions in a 60-day period or five or more in a 365-day period.
"This is a 73 per cent increase by comparison with the previous year," the report reads.
According to the ACMA website, "Telstra must report any services that fail to meet these thresholds to the ACMA, along with details of the faults, what was done to repair them, and what remediation action will be done to ensure the recurrent faults do not occur again. The ACMA may require Telstra to submit a new plan for remediating a service if the ACMA does not believe Telstra's proposal is sufficient.
"A service which breaches the level 3 thresholds will undergo remediation, followed by a monitoring period of 8 months. If faults occur during the monitoring period that are assessed as related to the faults that caused the initial contravention of level 3 of the NRF, Telstra is required to re-examine its remediation and consider further remediation of the service."
The overall the customer service guarantee situation has improved — both Optus and AAPT beat the CSG benchmark of 90 per cent at the national level. Telstra was just under the target with 88.3 per cent, up from the previous year's result of 87.9 per cent.
The CSG Standard outlines the expected timeframe for small businesses and consumers to receive connection and repair services along with attendance of appointments by service providers. Customers are entitled to financial compensation if the standards are not met.
"While the number of compensation payments made by Telstra for not meeting CSG timeframes decreased, the average amount paid increased 13.8 per cent to $46 in the 2008–09 financial year," the report reads. "Optus recorded a decrease in both the number of payments made (down 53.6 per cent) and the average amount per payment (down 26.1 per cent to $61 per payment). The number of payments made by AAPT increased in 2008–09, as did the average compensation payment level (up 66.8 per cent to $118 per payment)."
Additionally, while Telstra reported an increase in the number of CSG extreme failures for both connections (up from 9045 in the 07/08 financial year to 16,195) and fault repair (up 14.8 per cent from 6451 in the previous financial year), its rival, Optus, achieved a decrease for both; down 75 per cent (from 5426 to 1349) for connections and down 64.5 per cent (from 3209 to 1140 year on year) for fault repairs.
On Priority Assistance, Telstra was "generally below the 90 per cent benchmark in 2008–09".
However, its "connection performance improved steadily, reaching the benchmark in both urban and rural areas in the June 2009 quarter".
In terms of payphones, Telstra removed 1573 over the course of the financial year, but decided against proceeding with the removal of a further 202, to end up with 39,328 across the country. Payphone usage, meanwhile, declined by 14.4 per cent.
The full report can be downloaded from the ACMA website.