Aussie senate blocks CDMA switch off

Bush telegraph must be maintained

Australia's ex-monopoly Telstra won't be allowed to switch off its aging CDMA network, at least not until it can provide equivalent 3G coverage, according to new conditions imposed by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

Telstra was planning to switch off its CDMA network, which reaches 21 per cent of the country - though 98 per cent of the population - in January 2008. The company has already started migrating customers to its "Next G" service, but that doesn't have the coverage of the legacy system.

Next G is a 3G network, but operates at 850MHz (as opposed to the usual 2100MHz) to increase the cell sizes, but despite this Telstra has found it difficult to achieve the coverage of its CDMA network. The company is now claiming it never intended to switch off the older technology until the new had the same coverage anyway, so the minister's new license conditions are redundant.

According to the minister, this isn't what the firm said back in June when she suggested it delay the switch-off.

Even if the company claims equivalent coverage, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will want 12 weeks to check up on it, so a switch off in January is unlikely to be possible. ®

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