Bye Bye CDMA

Another technology bites the dust! At the end of this month Australia will close down the national CDMA network and all its remaining customers will need to move onto an alternate mobile platform. For many customers in remote regional Australia this means moving to the Telstra NextG mobile service, some kind of mobile satellite phone (yes there are options and more are coming and I can’t wait to tell you more on this!) OR sign up to one of the competing 3G/2.5G networks, however regional coverage is not strong and chances are not available.

CDMA was established in Australia to provide a national mobile network that was mostly targeted at regional customers. This was the chosen mobile network technology used at the phasing out of analogue mobile services at the end of the 1990s as digital services grew in penetration. As it did then, digital offered better call security, extra services like SMS and better call quality (I know some of you will argue about that one!). For the telco’s CDMA offered a cheaper, more efficient method to service large geographic areas, populated with fewer customers, requiring fewer base stations than alternative network options.

The CDMA network shutdown has been widely publicised, and has been coming for some time. Senator Conroy says –
“I am satisfied that Telstra has met the equivalence tests in its licence condition and has sufficiently rectified the problems I identified in January, including handheld handset coverage, customer information provision and the availability of equipment and services”.
So with the stroke of a pen and issue of a press release, we say RIP CDMA. If you live in regional Australia and are on the CDMA service you MUST move across to the newer mobile networks or stop using a mobile phone.

With every new technology born comes the need to to let an old technology die. CDMA is the latest to join the list, what technology have you said good bye to and which one do you miss most?

We're Changing The Telecommunications Act – Great Idea!

So the Feds are saying that we need to change the Telecommunications Act so that bosses can monitor all the activities of your office PC, like employee emails and actions while on social networking sites. Why? So we can catch terrorists and ensure that they do not knock out our major areas of electronic infrastructure…

How will this be different from the office IT department being in the know about personal information you are looking at while using your office PC? Well, I guess the government is larger, able to put you in jail and run a tax audit. However your office IT department is closer to your desk, and more embarrassing when you meet them at the water cooler and they pass on their condolences about your relationship breaking up on the weekend.

The bottom line is your personal details, when maintained on an office PC, are not private. If you want privacy, purchase your own PC and internet connection, then you can lock it down with anti-virus, firewalls and everything else under the sun to ensure your information stays yours.

I do however think it’s a good idea to be revisiting the Telecommunications Act. Apart from allowing for snoops to search for online terrorist activities, what else can we recommend to the Feds for inclusion in the act when these changes are made? Here are a couple of my ideas:

– The prosecution of Cyber Bullies?

– Those annoying Mobile content people who ring your phone and hang up, then when you call them back they offer some rubbish java game in return for ringing their 1900 number – can we outlaw this?

Broadband providers who sell us into a really low priced internet plan and then charge their customers hundreds of dollars for going over their monthly data allowance. Can we add something about that practice?

Well, I have got you started – make your recommendations and I will email them over to the Feds for potential inclusion in Telco Act revision.

Broadband, it's easy when you know how

We have had an amazing response to our segment this morning on the Today Show discussing Broadband options in Australia.
Visit countries such as Japan and they have optical fibre running into people’s homes. It’s not all doom and gloom though, good news is on the horizon with Senator Conroy moving forward with his plan for a new, national broadband network. His office is tendering for the construction of an Optical Fibre network that will connect to all the funny looking ‘node’ boxes in your street, and the internet speed will be guaranteed to be a minimum of 12 meg. This network will reach 98% of Australians. The 2% it does not reach will need to get a internet service through wireless or satellite, but these will be remote locations where this is the most cost effective way of providing a service and subsidies are available now, and will continue to be offered by the feds for this service.

So that is the landscape in the future, but what can you do now?

Here are some plans (or services) I think are well worth taking a look at. For me I am without broadband at home for the moment as the phone line in my street has corroded and my ADSL connection is dead (so is the phone line, but that is more a concern for my wife).

Iinet have always been an internet pioneer and their Naked DSL is worth a try. From the early days of offering a national local call number for their dial up internet service, to being one of the first to roll out a national Dslam ADSL2+ network Iinet have challenged the big players and the net result has been services and prices that have benefits for all of us. Check out their Naked plans, and remember there are two main trade offs. Firstly the phone call quality is lower than you experience now, because your calls are directed over the internet instead of the phone network. I am fine with that, in the end I will save money and have a great service. Second, there is a delay from when you sign up to the service to when the service begins. During this time you will have no phone and no internet service at all. However plans start at $50 which is great value.

Optus have thrown a lot of weight behind their mobile broadband service ‘Turbo G‘. The prices are OK, they could be better, however it’s the balance between network reach and price that impresses me. In the end it depends on where you plan to use the service that will be the biggest factor in deciding what network you use as Telstra, Vodafone, 3 Mobile and Optus are all rolling out similar services. The market leader for network reach for mobile broadband via the mobile phone networks is easily Telstra and their NextG service. However Before you sign the contract with your provider make sure you have a cooling off period. So if you take the ‘Dongle’ home and there is no network connection, you can return for a full refund. After the cooling off period you will most likely be on a plan for 24 months.

Contract or no contract is an important question you need to think about. Prices are lower and value is higher on a contract, however it does not work well for you if you need to cancel the contract during its term. I have always used contracts to get a better deal. I have always negotiated with my provider near the end of the contract term to gain price benefits and value sweeteners in return for staying with them after the contract has expired. It is as simple as calling your provider and asking “what are you going to do for me if I stay with you after my contract has expired”. The answer will sometimes surprise you how much they are willing to offer to keep your business.

My advice, have a copy of your contract and file it away. If your provider does not supply to the terms of the contract you might have a case that you can lodge with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. In that situation they will decide whether the terms of the contract are being met by the provider and whether you can be released without penalty.

Please post any questions you have or experiences you have had that will help other visitors.