Australian carrier to kill CDMA April 28

SYDNEY – Australian carrier Telstra will meet government requirements and pull the plug its CDMA cellular network April 28, completing a 19-month conversion to the GSM standard.

Telstra has maintained since last year that what it calls its Next G network is “bigger, better and faster than CDMA on every measure,” but despite that had to resort hotlines and foot soldiers to boost migration.

The confirmation of a termination date for CDMA, issued Tuesday, is the culmination of a showdown between the telco and the federal government in which the closure of the CDMA network was stymied in January after an Australian Communications and Media Alliance (ACMA) report criticized the suitability of Next G handsets, network coverage and customer service.

“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,” Senator Stephen Conroy said in a statement also issued Tuesday.

In another statement, Telstra Country Wide Group managing director Geoff Booth said the vast majority of customers, both rural and regional, had already moved to the Next G network.

Telstra said it will begin contacting remaining CDMA customers immediately to inform them of the shutdown and encourage their migration to Next G, which began operating in a limited number of cities in October, 2006 and has since spread across the country.

“We will be sending all CDMA customers a further letter and text messages to make sure they are aware of the final closure date,” Booth said.

Telstra said it will keep a special 1-800 Next G information hotline open until July 1, 2008. Senator Conroy said the hotline and other customer service initiatives helping people switch over will not cease until he has assessed whether the level of demand warrants an extension of the programs.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said that customers who do not believe they have had their network switchover issues resolved using Telstra’s hotline can contact the department a 1-800 number.

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