Thursday, July 29, 2004

Telstra mobile faults surge

James Riley
Australian IT - JULY 29, 2004

SERVICE faults on Telstra's mobile networks are as much as one-third higher than its internal targets, according to a leaked report.

Poorly documented repair procedures for base stations meant that faults on Telstra's two mobile networks were taking longer to repair, the confidential report found. High fault levels at base stations mean more mobile phone blackouts for consumers.
The leaked report follows a similar document in March which showed that faults on the Telstra fixed-line network had soared to a six-year high.

Labor's communications spokesman Lindsay Tanner said the leaked report demonstrated that the "same pattern of deteriorating service levels that we are seeing in the fixed-line network is now starting to appear in the mobile network".

The Supportability Review of Telstra's network of base stations across Australia found that service outages on the company's primary mobile network base stations were 25percent higher than targeted levels - 20.8 minutes per transmitter per month compared with an internal target of 16 minutes.

Outages on its CDMA network, which is widely used in regional areas, were about 33 per cent higher than the company had targeted - 27.8 minutes versus a target of 20.

The report, dated April 2004, found that on both networks the total number of outages was higher than the previous month and had shown no improvement over the previous three months.

It found that staff responsible for carrying out repairs -- especially in regional areas -- urgently needed training. Telstra often did not know about problems with mobile phone towers until a customer complained, because the company no longer carried out proactive maintenance testing.

"This leaked report provides further evidence that Telstra has taken its eye off the ball in regards to its core telecommunications functions," Mr Tanner said.

"Over the past few years, you've had a massive reduction in capital expenditure (at Telstra) and a dramatic reduction in staff numbers, so it would be surprising if there wasn't this kind of impact on service levels."

Telstra spokesman Rod Bruem said Mr Tanner had taken the internal service report out of context, and that there had been no cutbacks to the maintenance of mobile phone towers. He said service levels within the mobile networks were at all-time highs.