Monday, August 20, 2007

Where's CDMA going?

Are you a current user of the Telstra CDMA network?

Then you've probably heard by now that it won't be long before you'll be upgrading to the new 3G or NextG fact, perhaps you already have.

Telstra's latest move has caused quite a stir from both those who are affected by the change and by government officials.

There's concern from rural citizens that the new networks won't have the same coverage and signal as experienced now, and therefore are reluctant to change. This week on tech talk we explore the time frame, the effects, the opinions and the basics of this very hot topic. homepage producer Amy talks to independent candidate for Calare, Gavin Priestly, CDMA customer Marilyn Tillig and Senator Andrew Bartlett of the Queensland Democrats.

So first of all a bit of a rundown of the networks.

The CDMA network is in the process of being phased out after the announcement to build the Next G network in 2005. Customers can keep their existing CDMA phone until they choose to update...but it's crunch time, with the phase out expecting to take place early next year.

The Next G network is said to cover 98% of the population - 1.9 million square km as opposed to the current 1.6 million. Telstra has promised that it will be faster and provide access to new technology such as video calling and high internet speeds.

3G covers 50% of Australians and provides access to advanced mobile technology.

Unfortunately, at this stage there are concerns about blackspots throughout the country - areas that aren't receiving the same service under the new networks. It is Telstra's ambition to remedy this, to make the network equivalent or better, before phasing CDMA out.

One such place affected was the NSW regional town of Orange, however Telstra has just unveiled the last of three towers intended to improve signal. The independent candidate for Calare Gavin Priestly believes this is a step in the right direction. He says that previously coverage had been quite varied throughout the town - Telstra had acted to improve the overall signal. While this is a promising solution, will we have to see new towers pop up in all affected areas throughout Australia? Mr Priestly believes that they will attempt to improve the Next G signal from the current towers, but may need new ones in high density areas.

Country people need to make sure that all of their services, particularly in communication need to be kept on a par with the city. There needs to be some sort of comparison so that these areas can grow and develop. Let's face it. In this day and age, the convenience of a mobile phone is a great comfort, particularly to those living on property.

Marilyn Tillig lives in a rural area halfway between Albury and Wagga. So how important is mobile coverage for her? It means that in a time of emergency she can call who she needs to call without the network breaking up.

Marilyn would be happy to upgrade to the new networks - provided they really are upgrades. She's not so concerned about making video calls and downloading music videos - all she wants is for the new networks to improve coverage and fix blackspots.

Like others in her situation, she is expected to update to the NextG network and a suitable handset by early next year. It is understood that many will have to do this anyway as plans expire.

Senator Andrew Bartlett also has concerns for regional Australia. He notes that is is always good to update and improve - as long as it is just that. There has certainly been a lot of debate over whether this is the case.

Senator Bartlett believes much of the debate is a result of the Government's decision to privatise Telstra without sufficient control.

The National Party has decided to lobby Telstra to keep the CDMA network until the emerging networks have been proven.

It appears there are advantages to the new network, but there's also plenty of concern. If this topic hits close to home, you've still got until early 2008 to get things sorted and make sure you've got the best telephone system for you.

(homepage requested an interview with a representative from Telstra about this issue, but at the time of going to air, we had no response.)
Homepage is produced in the studios of 2MCE, Bathurst for the Community Radio Network and is supported financially by the Community Broadcasting Foundation. You can hear homepage on the 2MCE streaming service each Monday at 3pm EST via

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