Telstra service horrendous, says Alice farm area resident

p2131-Todd-Mall-officePHOTO at right: Using Todd Mall WiFi as Telstra service in farm areas is close to collapse. 

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Telstra’s service in the southern area of Alice Springs is clearly close to collapse as internet browsing, increasingly, is mostly slow or not available at all.

 

It appears Telstra is violating its Universal Service Obligation under the Australian Communications Authority which requires it “to ensure that general digital data services or special digital data services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, no matter where they live or conduct business”.

 

The Alice Springs News Online, which has extensively covered the service shortcomings (google our archive) has now received information from several rural residents who have fought for more than a year for a much higher standard of service for which, they say, they are paying the same as people with a proper service.

 

The key problem is Telstra’s failure to adequately handle data traffic south of the MacDonnell Range. The company is continuing to sell plans – and charging the full price for them – that include chunks of data. These can be for mobile phones, or for computers using hotspots on mobiles with Telstra plane or Telstra supplied dongles for going online.

 

Telstra has said new towers planned for the next two years will make a difference.

 

However, a private expert speaking on the condition of not being named claims the new towers will make no difference unless the bandwidth is increased – something that can be done using the towers already in place, immediately solving the problems.

 

The expert is saying that even when users have “five bars” – i. e. perfect “full blown” connection – to the network when they are using their mobile for voice calls, data traffic can be impeded because of inadequate bandwidth.

 

Users, desperate to do online work, now take their laptops to the north of the range, from a 3G to a 4G service environment, where their equipment works flawlessly, or at least much better.

 

That is a clear sign that it is the Telstra equipment that is at fault for the problems in the farm areas.

 

The correspondence from rural residents shows Telstra is asking a flood of questions wile not doing anything useful. Clients find the statements infuriating and plainly hypocritical, such as: “Telstra is committed to providing you with the highest levels of customer service.”

 

Telstra’s questions indicate it has no idea what’s going on in Alice Springs on occasions such as the Finke Desert Race when the mobile as well as the data services collapsed: “Is there a specific time pattern when the issue occurs? May we have dates & time of the incidents when you were not able to access the internet even with good signal,” Telstra asks.

 

People are having to do their internet work in the middle of the night.

 

One user has correlated his and his neighbours’ problems in getting online, with the movements of school children. For example they use their mobiles on the bus, or when they get home, but not while they are at school (or if they are they are north of the range).

 

One rural resident was unable to get access at home to web-based courses to enhance her job prospects, and had to go to north of the Gap to do it.

 

It took a news cameraman 36 hours instead of three to feed out a sport TV report from his office in the rural area. He missed his deadline and Alice Springs missed out on free promotion overseas.

 

One user described the Telstra service as “horrendous”.

 

All this occurred, says one user, while bush communities were getting optical fibre connections without even knowing it’s there, let alone how to use it.

 

He says: “I finally got onto the contractor who told me, ‘our job was to get it to the Hermannsburg connection point, not to notify them it was there’.”

 

There is still uncertainty about access to the NBN south of the Gap: Rural residents are getting this message when they check online (at the infrequent moments they have access): “Sorry we are unable to check your address at the moment.”

 

People are then encouraged to phone 1800 993728. I did, and after a three minute wait the operator answering was friendly but, alas, unhelpful:

• NBN is still not available at my Petrick Road address.

• There is no “ready for service date”.

• When that date arrives NBN will be able to tell me when the service will become available.

• And that could be years later.

 

PHOTO below: Is NBN the answer? Don’t hold your breath.

p2131-NBN

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8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Trevor Shiell
    Posted July 28, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I have a 2 Gig contract on my mobile and use that as a hot spot. Works reasonably well.
    Consider this proposition. I have $100 to spend at a supermarket. I go to the manager and give him my $100 and am told that I can do my shopping but spend only $50 for the month on goods and their services.
    Then go to the manager to get my other $50 back, but he says No. We keep that as part of our contract with you. You might think this a bit of a rip-off, yet that’s exactly what Telstra does to me, and millions of others and no one but me complains.
    I put that to a national firm of lawyers in the class action area but they were not interested. Am I missing something?

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  2. Rod Cramer
    Posted July 25, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Harold Albatross, the one thing that all residents in the rural area that I have ever spoken to (and its been a quite a few since the association formed in 1987), agree on, is they are happy to pay fairly for what they use.
    You have quite missed the point of this issue – we have to pay the same (in many instances more) as those in town for, in this case, a very unsatisfactory service, and then get “abused” by the providers for questioning the lack of service.
    Most of the localities have had fibre optic to the end of the street, for at least four years – we actually have 144 strands past our front gate – but to the best of my knowledge, it is unused (known as black fibre).
    So I imagine that most of them, if not all, would like me, find your mindless, pointless comment quite offensive.

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  3. Paul
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I have NBN satellite. Changed to it thinking it would solve my internet problems. It’s worse than my original 3G network!

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  4. Harold Albatross
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Always feel for rural residents. Fancy moving away from the lights, having large blocks for a fraction of the per sqm price as “metro”, have metres and metres of space between yours and neighbours’ houses and then not getting the exact same services that the “metro” residents have. Should be lining Aussie Post and have a crack at the minister of transport for some fuel subsidies to help them transit to work each day. Can’t believe that services have been reduced in the rural area.

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  5. Tracie Hall
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I have called Telstra many times because of very slow and unusable download speeds.
    I live in Heffernan Rd and trying to download a TV programme to watch or even a short DVD can be a nightmare.
    Emailing can even be challenging at times! It takes for ever, if it can handle it at all.
    It has stopped me being able to work from home as my boss would prefer and each time I talk to them they suggest I pay $700 to get an aerial put up that would help (but no guarantee).
    I don’t own the property and my boss and I are both paying for a service that works better in a place remote like Daly Waters than it does 14km from the CBD. They can’t give me an answer as to why they charge me for the same service that people get in the CBD. Very frustrating!
    NO wonder when you talk to people around town so many I have spoken to are looking at using another company that is cheaper for very much the same type of service until they fix this problem. Very frustrating that they can’t offer a better service so close to town. Every other place I know of can get great service this close to their CBD.

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  6. Mark Wilson
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    What input Erwin & readers has the Telecommunications Ombudsman had in all of this? It’s a most unsatisfactory situation. Telstra has us by the “short curlies” and knows it. “Help” lines from Manilla are always sugar-coated (the girls are so lovely: Have you visited the Philippines? seems a common question. Hey thought I was calling for phone / data services not a travel agency).
    These calls have never yet solved any of my concerns. I (we) pay Telstra a heap more money for mobile data than other carriers and still have to put up with this crap. Shocking Telstra! Makes you wonder how those in the new subdivision will cope.

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  7. Daniel Davis
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Erwin, just a bit of a correction, it’s not as simple as adding bandwidth (at least to fix the issue during events).
    This is a very simplistic explanation but due to the way wireless transmissions work there are a limited number of “timeslots” where devices can transmit within a single channel.
    If there are many more devices transmitting than timeslots available then the network will degrade to the point of being non-functional, regardless of the underlying bandwidth available at the tower.
    The only way to rectify this is to add “cells” (ie. another tower) to increase the available airtime.
    Telstra’s 4G technology (3GPP-LTE) can cope with around 200 concurrent connections per 5Mhz of bandwidth.
    Currently there is 15Mhz of spectrum available in Telstra’s 1800Mhz range which means there is a maximum limit of 600 concurrent connections per cell if a cell is using the entire 15Mhz.
    This is the issue Telstra currently face south of the Gap, whereby the only tower available to residents in the Ilparpa valley is the west gap tower.
    Some rural residents outside the Ilparpa valley have access to the airport cell but this is still a 3G cell with much lower data rates and is quickly saturated when a plane load of people all turn on their phones when departing a flight.

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  8. Adrian
    Posted July 23, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I have my doubts that Alice Springs will see any NBN action anytime soon. Mid next year, maybe.

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