Telstra sues Optus over network size claims

Optus says it was talking about population, not geography

Telstra has taken Optus to court for allegedly exaggerating the coverage area of the Optus network in a TV ad.

However, Optus has responded that the dispute comes down to Telstra missing the point of its ad, which first aired 29 January.

Telstra filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne. The telco has sought an injunction that would stop Optus from making a claim in advertising that the Optus network is less than 1 per cent smaller than the Telstra network.

Also read: 4G in Australia: The state of the nation

Telstra has asked the court to require Optus to correct the statement in both a new ad and in letters to “all persons and businesses who have connected to the defendant’s digital mobile telephone service” since the ad aired.

In the ad in question, Optus said that its network reaches 98.5 per cent of Australians while Telstra’s reaches 99.3 per cent. In the court filing, Telstra said Optus’ claims are “false, misleading and/or deceptive”.

A Telstra spokesman elaborated, “The difference in geographic coverage is literally many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. It’s a reality anyone venturing beyond cities or using their phone in back bedrooms and car parks understands.”

Telstra said its network is 2.3 million square kilometres in geographic area, covering 28 per cent the Australian landmass, while the Optus network is about 1 million square km.

However, Optus corporate and regulatory affairs vice president David Epstein said the number-two telco was talking about population reach, not geographic size.

“There is no dispute that the difference is less than 1 per cent between the population reach of Optus’ network compared to Telstra’s,” Epstein said in a statement.

“We have been consistent and transparent in how we communicate the less than 1 per cent difference in the population reach of the Optus mobile network compared to Telstra’s and we will defend this position.”

Telstra previously threatened to take Vodafone Hutchison Australia to court for claims that Vodafone made about the relative speeds of their 4G networks. But the matter never went to court, with the parties apparently resolving the dispute on their own.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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