No remorse for telcos in ACMA customer complaint crackdown

Regulatory action may be forced upon industry, ACMA chair warns

While telecommunication companies have improved at customer service, they still have a long way to go, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has claimed.

Speaking at the CommsDay summit in Sydney, ACMA chair, Chris Chapman, said that while there had been improvements as a result of the Reconnecting the Customer public hearings, complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) were still on the rise since the last quarter of 2010.

The hearings set out a road map for modernising the regulatory relationships within the telecommunications sector.

“Let me reiterate for industry participants - record levels (of complaints) are still being recorded. The 'she’ll be right attitude’ is no longer acceptable,” he said.

"Our Reconnecting the Customer program laid out a roadmap for consensus. We now have a strong evidence base to enable strategies. It shines some light on where solutions lie and there is also a requirement for clear results."

According to Chapman, the telecommunications industry sits at the bottom of the barrel when it came to customer satisfaction.

"If we are going to have sustained change the landscape will need targeted and robust interventions," he said.

Chapman said that government regulation, rather than self regulation, may be needed.

"The time of self-regulation and tick box reporting has passed."

Chapman said it was a shame the industry did not come together a year ago to deliver the sort of industry step change that Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, spoke about this week.

During his Commsday speech, Thodey called for the telecommunications industry to unify in an attempt to more effectively influence economic policy.

Chapman added that results from the ACMA public hearings would be released next month.

He also spoke about the ACMA radio frequency spectrum plan, which is aimed at helping the Government's plan for the digital television switchover and reviewing major elements of Australia's wireless spectrum.

The ACMA’s proposition is that by 2015 a further 150 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum will be required for mobile broadband services. This is over and above the spectrum expected to become available through clearing the analog television bands and relocating ENG services from the 2.5GHz band.

"Let me give you a little preview on a soon to be released ACMA paper titled Towards 2020: Future spectrum requirements for mobile broadband," he said. "The paper provides the rationale for our assumptions. This includes demand drivers, international comparisons and benchmarking data."

The paper will also canvass the ACMA view that providing additional spectrum is not the only solution to increased demand - that industry too has its role to play.

"It also recognises that our figure of an additional 150 MHz may not be an Australian-wide requirement, but reflects particular peaks around population dense sites. Even if this figure is only an indication of peak population demand, it still presents an obvious challenge.

The ACMA is already exploring the next tranche of possible bands to fill this need.

A second soon-to-be released ACMA paper will look at options to replan the 820-960MHz band (known as the 900MHz band) to improve its utility and make additional spectrum available in the medium term for mobile broadband services.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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