Clients’ comments on Telstra

BELOW ARE COMMENTS FROM PEOPLE NOT IN THE FAR-FLUNG OUTBACK, BUT IN THE MUNICIPAL AREA OF ALICE SPRINGS, SOUTH OF THE MacDONNELL RANGE, CLOSER TO THE TOWN CENTER THAN THE AIRPORT.

 

ALICE SPRINGS IS THE ONLY MAJOR REGIONAL TOWN IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA IN A RADIUS OF 1200 KILOMETERS.

 

WE HAVE DELETED INFORMATION IDENTIFYING THE COMPLAINANTS. TELSTRA, OF COURSE, HAS THAT INFORMATION.

 

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EMAIL FROM THE ALICE SPRINGS NEWS ONLINE TO ALICE SPRINGS RURAL AREAS ASSOCIATION (ASRAA) PRESIDENT ROD CRAMER, REQUESTING THAT HE CIRCULATE TO HIS MEMBERS OUR QUESTIONS ABOUT TELSTRA’S SERVICE TO THEM.

 

From: Erwin <erwin@alicespringsnews.com.au>
Date: 18 July 2014 5:41:12 PM
To: Rod Cramer Rod <templbar@bigpond.net.au>
Subject: Inadequate Telstra service

Hi Rod,

Would you please forward this to the ASRAA members?

We’ve now dealt for more than a year with the inadequate mobile phone and, specially, mobile phone based internet services south of The Gap.

 

MY LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF THE RURAL AREAS RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION

I would like to forward to Nigel Scullion, Telstra and the Telecom Ombudsman any observations from the members, their friends and neighbours, and report on the responses (no need to mention names). The following are some of the stories we’ve published:

https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2013/07/01/massive-mobile-phone-demand-has-telstra-on-the-hop/

https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2014/06/16/22481/ (NOTE in this story: “We have looked into this issue and it was resolved on 12 June following an investigation. We are not able to provide comment on the source of the interference.”)

https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2014/05/27/mysterious-source-interferes-with-alice-mobile-calls/

I sent the following to Nigel [Senator Scullion] and the Ombudsman this week:-

I have some further information from an expert in the field. I re-emphasise that I am seeking comment from Nigel on this issue, for publication, because I am not writing as a constituent, but as a journalist reporting on a problem affecting most people south of The Gap.

The issues below are of a technical nature. I have no doubt that issues of service obligations come into play as well. I have not researched those but no doubt you can get details more easily than I.

[1] Telstra has Cells on Wheels in Alice Springs.

[2] It refuses to deploy them in the rural areas as a stop-gap measure until new towers can provide the level of service people in the rural area are paying for.

[3] Telstra says Cells on Wheels are for emergencies only.

[4] There is nothing to stop Telstra to deploy them in cases of emergencies: It would take no longer relocating them from the rural area than from whichever depot they are stored in now.

[5] The Cells on Wheels can be linked to the source of the signal (back bone link) by hooking it into the fiber optic network, or via microwave link provided line-of-sight is available.

[6] Line of sight to the towers at the top of the ranges is available.

[7] Users have “five bars” – i.e. perfect connection, “full blown” – to the network when they are using their mobile for voice calls.

[8] The problem is in the data transmission needed for browsing and email.

[9] Users find that when they take their laptops to town (north of The Gap), their gear works fine.

[10] That indicates the problem lies with the bandwidth – something new towers may not fix.

[11] This is a failing of Telstra, not the users’ equipment.

 

Kind regards, Erwin

 

Erwin Chlanda
Editor
Alice Springs News Online
erwin@alicespringsnews.com.au
www.alicespringsnews.com.au
Mob 0418 890040

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REPLY # 1

 

On 20/07/2014, at 9:56 PM

Hi Erwin,

This is called (key word here: “Congestion.”
A couple of years ago I kept data and managed to embarrass Telstra into allocating more mobile bandwidth:

• The connection speed dropped off – for me and many neighbours –  at times when usage increased; ie the school bus arrived in the area to drop kids off, straight after mealtimes, caravan parks full, show days, etc;
• Telstra  foolishly tried to play the card that our reception was bad; the help staff personnel were ill-informed about which towers we were connecting to, expecting us not to have investigated this and already invested in masthead antennas and boosters.
• When we maintained our position, I think they really were embarrassed into fixing it.
I’m not sure, but I like to think it helped to maintain the same tack:
“The service is congested because Telstra  has sold more bandwidth than it was capable of providing.”
PS: Apps like “Signal Finder,” etc helped. I can send maps etc but I think you have to make enough noise and use the right words.
We’re not doing doing badly now  west of your place but it’s starting to slow (when the teens are on their devices and online!). I hope this helps.

 

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REPLY # 2

 

Date: 15 July 2013 14:34

Subject: Re: Blackspot Coverage Feedback (KMM795736V53708L0KM)

 

Thank you. Is this an annual / seasonal occurrence every time the 2 day Finke Desert Race is held?

No. This has never happened before. In fact, I chose that date arbitrarily because it’s the date nobody seems to have got any coverage at all. I’m saying your bandwith does not satisfy the demand in this part of Alice Springs.

FYI, we have a whole swathe of events during these cooler months, many of them (Alice Springs show, Race day, Finke race, Camel Cup, Rodeo), which happen to the south of town.

Telstra Corporation Limited, ACN 051 775 556, ABN 33 051 775 556

Telstra is committed to providing you with the highest levels of customer service, including protecting your privacy. Telstra is bound by the Privacy Laws, which deals with the protection of your personal information.

 

Original Message Follows: ————————

On 15 July 2013 10:38, Coverage Feedback ‪<coveragefeedback@online.telstra.com.au>‬ wrote:

We apologise. We need to match your report with the records as part of the investigation. Do you remember when this issue started to happen?

6th June 2013, the days before the Finke Desert race which attracted thousands of visitors.

>And when this occurred, did you have full signal bars on the device?

Yes

 

Yours sincerely,

Mobile Online Coverage Enquiries

Original Message Follows: ————————

The pattern occurs when people are awake. I could be wrong, but the activity of the young has some interesting effects on ability to connect to 3G. I can see the number of live ZTE wireless  devices as I drive up the road.

5:30 am I can usually get internet.
6:30 is sporadic
7:30 can be terrible. The kids are using their mobile internet devices while waiting for the school bus.
8:30 things get better. Kids are in school and their phones are turned off.
Daytime: Sporadic. These days, school holidays, kids sleep late. They can go online anytime.
15:45: kids get home on the bus. They’re online already as the bus comes down then road.
18:00 Dinnertime I can sometimes get online. Lately that’s not likely.
20:00. Parents are supervising the kids’ homework. Surprisingly, little internet congestion.
22:00 Parents go to bed. Kids go straight online until just before midnight.
01:00 – 05:30 is when I’m most likely to get online. Sometimes I set an alarm to wake up and generate a company invoice.

 

Week-ends: These days, congested almost permanently.

 

When I say “I” I mean “we.”  My neighbour has recently spent some time looking for a connection so she can do an online orientation course with her new employer. She wanted to go to the Library but they have had an asbestos problem in the building and so I think she now has to go somewhere and do unpaid overtime.

Once again, your own access logs will be telling you how many concurrent users you have and the ratio of available bandwidth to users. You will know how much bandwidth you have sold nationally – but may so far not have looked into just how many people from elsewhere travel to Alice Springs with mobile internet devices. Please look into your own records yourselves.

 

On 15 July 2013 08:53, Coverage Feedback ‪<coveragefeedback@online.telstra.com.au>‬ wrote:

Thank you for the response. 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?

Yours sincerely,

Mobile Online Coverage Enquiries

 

Original Message Follows: ————————

I now find that all the answers to your questions are to be found at the foot of your own email to me!

 

On 14 July 2013 13:55, Coverage Feedback ‪<coveragefeedback@online.telstra.com.au>‬ wrote:

We apologise. May we verify the following details then:
When you mean by 3G has been non-existent, are you referring to cannot connect to the internet?

 

Details of Experience: 3G has been almost in-existent for most days – and for most of the
day – for over a month. I am in rural Alice Springs. My neighbours and I have only 3G as the
only possible internet. We find that Telstra has more clients trying to access services than
the capacity will allow. I use phone and Elite 3G Wifi modem – with external antenna and
signal amplifier indoors.

 

Do you see an E/GPRS/EDGE connection on the broadband modem/mobile?
NO. I am using a Cisco Router  application which shows location of towers, speeds and access type which is Next G via my ZTE wireless modem. With or without the roof-mounted antenna and amplifier the signal is good  to excellent throughout the times when Internet is intermittent or inaccessible.

 

I can connect also using the mobile internet connection of my Samsung phone. Its Cisco app showing now  excellent signal  Net type: UMTS +38+384kb/sec Strength -67dBm +ASU:25.

I am not complaining about signal strength.

You will be aware of this. I have talked to neighbours. It is directly tied to the numbers of concurrent users. Typically the internet got inaccessible when the School Bus arrived at 15:45 and showed the pattern of users’ connection in this rural area.

 

It is now school holidays. There are lots of visitors. Maybe this has something to do with it.

 

May we have the incident location address?

[number deleted] Heffernan Road, Connellan NT 0870, also up and down the street for several kilometers. Kindly read coordinates below.

Was it a gradual or sudden change in experience?

Kindly read below.

 

Yours sincerely,

Wireless Data Support

Original Message Follows: ————————

I am not talking about voice or text or mobile use.

 

Please read my report again.
It refers to 3G and Next G internet.

Thank you for supporting our Black Spot, Bright Spot Program by sharing your experience of
our mobile networks.

 

To help us pinpoint the reason for the Black Spot and complete our investigation, could you
please provide responses to the following questions. We recognise you may not have all of
the information requested, in this case please reply with what you can:
What happens on incoming and outgoing calls / text messages?

At the time, did you hear any recorded messages or trailers on your mobile device?  If so,
what were they?

What was the battery strength at the time of the experience?

We have been unable to identify the exact location of where the experience occurred. Could
you please provide further detail of the specific location such as the name of a street or
an intersecting street, a lot number or distance from the nearest intersection.
Describe the surrounding terrain, such as flat, hilly, or a valley.

Has the problem occurred for you at any other location? If it does please provide the exact
location, including the street name and number, nearest intersecting street name, town or
suburb, postcode and state?

Have you tried your SIM in another handset (or vice versa), and if so are you experiencing
the same problem?

Is there anything further you would like to add to this report?

Thank you for sharing your mobile experience with us. Once the investigation has been
completed, we will be in touch to advise you of the outcome.

Yours sincerely,

Mobile Online Coverage Enquiries

 

Telstra values your opinion and would like to ensure that our response is in line with your
expectations. For that reason you may be contacted via email by an independent research
company, contracted by us, and invited to participate in our service quality monitor. Your
responses to the survey questions will remain strictly confidential if you choose to
participate.

 

FEEDBACK DETAILS
————————–

6 Date of Experience: 13/7/2013

7 Time of Experience: 09:00

8 Nature of Experience: Blackspot

9 Details of Experience: 3G has been almost in-existent for most days – and for most of the
day – for over a month. I am in rural Alice Springs. My neighbours and I have only 3G as the
only possible internet. We find that Telstra has more clients trying to access services than
the capacity will allow. I use phone and Elite 3G Wifi modem – with external antenna and
signal amplifier indoors.

10 Experience was: Intermittent

11 Experience is: Specific to the location

12 Experience is: Outdoor

13 Signal strength on the handset: 4

14 Other Telstra customers experiencing: Yes

15 Customer Mobile Number: [deleted]

16 Type of Service: Mobile

17 Network Type : NEXTG

18 Service using at the time: Browsing

19 Mobile Number: 0498525396

19a Handset Make: -Other-  Model: Elite Wifi

 

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REPLY # 3

 

Date: 21 July 2014 10:06:36 AM ACST
To: “erwin@alicespringsnews.com.au” <erwin@alicespringsnews.com.au>
Cc: Rod <templbar@bigpond.net.au>
Subject: RE: Inadequate Telstra service

We have horrendous Telstra service – no 4G signal and patchy 3G. Shocking ADSL speed and our letter to the minister was responded to with – “we know it’s bad  – Telstra knows to – bad luck –  your further from the exchange so on the slow end of speed. No plans to upgrade or fix existing equipment.”

 

We disputed being sold an undeliverable service with Telstra over a period of 3 months and approximately 10 hours on the phone – and won some ground – but no fix.

 

We spent 2 hours of that time fighting about the fields of addresses in their system, which don’t allow lot numbers and therefore negate courier delivery for replacement of equipment – they only allowed street numbers which couriers can’t use … Managed to get Telstra to add a field in their computer system (whoopy do dah) eventually. It cost them three undelivered new modems.

 

We have tried both ADSL and external 3 G and external 4G modems – all SHITE.
Some signal, but no reliability. Unusable with windows 8 systems because 3G delivery bites, when we do get them, are too broken, weak and haphazard to run on newer programs.
Limps along with windows 7 systems – sometimes ok sometimes nothing. No capacity for speed or size.

 

Mobile phone works on the back veranda some days or the front veranda other days – nothing consistent in the house – and we are next to the river, not under the hill’s shadow.

 

We are on Ross Highway, next to Crown Land. We pay the same as everyone else , except for multiple systems just to hope one will work when another doesn’t, and yet the systems we are sold don’t work.

 

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REPLY # 4

 

On 21/07/2014, at 10:45 PM
Erwin,

So many things to type so little time, perhaps I will have more time tomorrow.
Some bullet points for now, some of it relevant to your story but all relevant to services South of Gap:

 

1. Information I gleaned from a call with Telstra NT Manager Brian O’Keefe includes that Kligariff won’t be getting the NBN as somebody wasn’t ready with the paperwork, I can’t recall who he said, perhaps Council? Anyway NBN are by-passing it altogether.

 

2. Ilparpa also won’t get NBN, the only existing suburb in Alice Springs not to. Why? Why does Adam Giles push for remote communities hundreds of k off the highway to get decent broadband but not people within the boundaries of one of the most modern towns in Australia, people often trying to run businesses dependent on a single service? I still remember the fibre optic cable being laid out to Papunya and Hermannsburg maybe 17 years ago to their doorstep. About 5 years after that I asked Ntjalka what they were doing with their fibre optic broadband he was shocked and asked “what broadband”? 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”.
Let’s do both town and remote right this time.

 

3. According to Brian there are no plans to provide 4G South of the Gap ever. This will be the first time that South of the Gap has been refused the latest wireless technology available.
The worst thing is for many, that is all we can get on a single service, no ADSL, nothing else so when things go down or slow down we are “off the air”. My business is effectively closed unless I drive into town to get another signal. Brian told me that my suspicions were correct that Telstra now has a 4G transmitter up on West Gap as well as in the CBD but it doesn’t send the signal our way. He said they would have to put in another “cell” (which they could have fitted at the same time) but decided not to bother with the rural area (we’re just hicks after all).
Not only is 4G so much faster down AND up, for businesses South of the Gap it would provide a back up when the 3G service goes down ( I remember a complete outage of 36 hours a couple of years back) or when the 3G service has one of its frequent wobblies, getting down sometimes near dial up speed.

 

4. I haven’t had time to read your stories but gather they are about the recent 3G “outage”, which is more about weird speed variations than total signal loss.
The outage (numbered by Telstra as 264206) has officially been going since May 19 but from my frequent internet speed checks I believe it started in February.
They claim it is from unknown interference, but is still not resolved.

Even if it did start on May 19 can you even imagine the hullabaloo such an outage would have
if it was allowed to continue for full 2 months in the CBD of Sydney or Melbourne? People would be sacked, especially Managers. I briefly noted this in your email:
“We have looked into this issue and it was resolved on 12 June following an investigation.” That is a lie, I spoke with technicians just a couple of weeks back and they were the ones who gave me the outage number above, telling me it remained unresolved. I have just run a speedtest and got 2.4mbps upload and .30 mbps upload. My two year average before February was 15mbps download and 3mbps upload, consistently day or night. I use the best equipment available including a Yagi 3G high gain beam antenna aimed straight at the towers line of sight.
I should get better reception than anyone out here, so who knows what others are getting? Ironically if I go down Ilparpa Road 2km in the scrub, I can get 3 bars of 4G, but there are no bars where people live.
Let’s not forget all the events like Finke Desert Race, Camel Cup the Show and the Drags. Outages when these are on, without an alternative network, could very well cause a fatality one day, if they haven’t already.

 

5. A couple of specific examples of how this affects real businesses South of the Gap. Of course at Ilparpa we already have to deal with the most extraordinary number
of power (and water) outages I have ever come across in all the places I have lived in Australia and NZ. Early this year I was asked to shoot the Eels / Tigers game for Seven Network. I had to compile the footage next morning and they told me two other commercial networks were wanting my vision too. There is a 4pm deadline to get it to them and it was only 3pm when I went to send it so I thought no probs. So I go to FTP it to Sydney and the 3G speed had dropped to virtually dial-up. I tried all sorts of things to get it going over half an hour but it kept telling me the file I needed to send was going to take 6 hours instead of the 20 minutes it should have.
Of course this was way past the deadline, so I grabbed my wife’s laptop and a mobile dongle and headed into town but by the time they got it, it was too late.
As far as I know no viewers on commercial networks in Australia got to see the game because of that, all that effort and tourism dollars mostly wasted.

 

A month ago I shot a current affairs piece on Aboriginal education in Australia for Britain’s ITN and their flagship “tonight” show. They needed me to send all
30gbs of full quality HD footage to them by wireless broadband. Whereas many people in town with virtually unlimited data plans wouldn’t bat a eyelid, this used my entire data plans (X 2 15gb) for my business for the month. Also as it was early in the month I had nothing left to run my business and had to buy lots more. So instead of the already expensive $200 plan I have, I had to shell out another $200 that month. I fluked a good run with the 3G and it took 36 hours to send to London, if I had 4G it would have taken 3 hours. It’s not as if I have a choice of services like people North of the Gap, that’s it. I would love to know where the NT Government and ASTC are on all this, especially 4G. Why do they continue to allow us to be treated as second class members of the community when we are legally within the same town paying the same rates?

Hope this is helpful, maybe we can chat tomorrow.

WE WILL CONTINUE TO PUBLISH ON THIS PAGE COMMENTS FROM TELSTRA CLIENTS RELATING TO THE ISSUES WE ARE RAISING.

 

 

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