Bush finally backs CDMA closure

Not all gloom as shutdown looms

Regional Australians have finally backed the closure of Telstra's CDMA network, which will be terminated at midnight tonight.

NSW Farmer's Association president Jock Laurie said Telstra has done enough groundwork to facilitate the closure of CDMA.

"Next-G is getting better and better, but there will still be a few people who have problems with local coverage and a few other things," Laurie said.

"We are talking to Telstra to make sure they get through to anyone who has problems."

Laurie said remaining CDMA users should contact Telstra if they require assistance migrating to the new network.

Regional Australians have previously voiced concerns that the Next-G network is not up to scratch.

The closure will be Telstra's second attempt to deactivate the 10 year old CDMA network, after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy blocked the move in January this year.

Former communications minister Helen Coonan imposed a draft license condition last year, which prevented Telstra from closing the CDMA network if the Next-G network did not offer equivalent or improved performance.

Conroy gave Telstra the go-ahead to kill the network earlier this month.

"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," Conroy said.

A January report issued by the Australian Communications and Media Alliance (ACMA) criticized the suitability of Next-G handsets, network coverage and customer service.

Some regional Australians could not connect to Next-G after they were sold low-capacity handsets instead of the more powerful Blue Tick phones by Telstra shops.

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National Farmer's Federation (NFF) spokesperson Brett Heffernan said the telco has since rectified most of the problems that held off the CDMA closure.

"The systemic problems that we saw earlier this year have dissipated and we are comfortable with the closure of CDMA," Heffernan said.

"Next-G had all sorts of problems, but we're hearing Telstra is active on the ground and has fixed the problems.

"There still are individual farmers who have isolated problems, not all necessarily related to the network, and our push to Telstra is to rectify those problems."

Heffernan said most regional and rural CDMA users have switched to Next-G.

The NFF issued a joint report to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) prior to the initial CDMA closure which found 73 percent of regional Next-G subscribers had serious problems with the network.

Heffernan said the report helped sway Conroy's decision to withhold the network closure.

Telstra country wide director Gary Goldsworthy said the network will be shutdown at midnight AEST.

"We have prepared for the closure of the CDMA network for more than two years and nothing has been left to chance," Goldsworthy said.

"Today really is the last chance for remaining CDMA customers to move across to a new mobile network and remain connected."

The telco will deactivate some 3500 CDMA sites around the country following the closure, and will remove additional redundant equipment.

The closure will start in the eastern states and sweep across other regions in accordance with local time zones.

Calls will flow over the deadline will be allowed to continue until 1AM tomorrow.

The CDMA network held almost two million regional subscribers at its peak, according to Telstra.