CDMA killswitch will tear Telstra-government rift

Pressure is on Labor to enforce network license condition

A showdown between Telstra and the federal government over the termination of Australia's CDMA network is set to erupt within weeks.

Australia will be cut-off from all CDMA services, including emergency calls, after January 28 as part of Telstra's migration to HSDPA Next-G.

Local analyst Paul Budde said tensions will flare between Telstra and the department of Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy (BCDE), charged with mediating the switch-off, if the CDMA termination is refused under the government's license condition.

"The government may force Telstra to keep CDMA open in areas where there are holes in Next-G coverage, mainly in regional and rural areas or in the edges of cell connectivity, until they fix the problems," Budde said.

"They would not make them keep open large areas of the network because it is strong in metropolitan areas; it would be a middle solution to make sure no one is without coverage."

Budde said the clash may highlight a change in the previously cozy Labor-Telstra relationship under the Howard government.

"It will be a test between the new government and Telstra, especially since it now has to build a national fibre network," he said.

The government imposed a license condition requiring Telstra's Next-G network to have equal or superior network coverage before it will allow its termination.

Telstra spokesman Peter Taylor said Next-G will handle CDMA's 1 million-plus customers without fault.

"Next-G is set for January 28; all that is left are the few [CDMA] stragglers who have 21 days to switch over," Taylor said.

He said the Next-G blackspots reported in the media are the fault of handsets, not network coverage.

"Next-G is 25 percent bigger than CDMA, so it covers more area; [coverage holes] are cause by the handsets, not the network."

Taylor urged CDMA customers to report all coverage faults to Telstra and hardware faults to suppliers before the January 28 cut-off.

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