Landline Phones and the Universal Service Obligation (USO)

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a long-standing consumer protection that ensures everyone has access to landline telephones and pay phones regardless of where they live or work.

Telstra is responsible for delivering the USO, and must provide standard telephone services (STS) on request to every premises in Australia within reasonable timeframes. This is both a legislative and contractual obligation.

Please note Telstra are required to maintain landlines in nbn Sky Muster and nbn Fixed Wireless mapped areas, people in these areas DO NOT have to move to an nbn landline and can keep their current landline service.  BIRRR recommends that you maintain your standard landline service in addition to your internet service. If you are told a different story to the above information by a provider, please contact the BIRRR team.

Telstra delivers the USO STS (Standard Telephone Service) using a mix of technologies, including copper, fibre, point to point radio (e.g. high capacity radio concentrator system or HCRC), NGWL and satellite infrastructure (i.e. Telstra’s USO Sat service).

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HCRC in North Western QLD during the devastating 2019 Floods.

Telstra fulfil their obligation to provide an STS by giving customers access to a reliable telephone service that has good voice reception and ensures connections and faults associated with this service are undertaken and repaired within a reasonable time.

You can read what features are included in a USO STS here.

How to order a STS

Orders can be placed at your local Telstra store, by calling 13 22 00, or visiting Telstra online.

Telstra national pricing ensures that customers in remote areas pay the same price for an STS as customers in cities. While this service has traditionally been provided as a fixed line telephone service, Telstra’s obligation is technology neutral meaning they can choose the technology over which they provide you with the service.  For example in some remote areas Telstra provide customers with an STS over satellite.

For more details on appointment, connection and repair times, visit the Telstra website

Telstra STS Repair Times

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Telstra Consumer Service Guarantee (CSG) Payments

If Telstra are unable to repair your landline (STS) within the agreed timeframe you may be entitled to a CSG payment. Keep a record of when you report faults and fault numbers to assist with this process.

Payments are currently:

  • $14.52 (for residential/charity customers) or $24.20 (for business customers), for each working day missed, for the first 5 working days of delay.
  • After the first 5 working days of delay, you may be entitled to receive a CSG payment of $48.40 per additional working day of delay.

The CSG payment does not apply in some cases e.f  if you are offered (even if you don’t accept) an interim telephone service, delays due to natural disasters or circumstances beyond the control of Telstra or if you don’t allow access to your property to a technician.

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For more information please call 13 22 00.

USO arrangements were put in place before the widespread availability of mobile and broadband services. In April 2016, the Government requested the Productivity Commission (PC) undertake an inquiry into the future direction of the USO in an evolving telecommunications market.

The Government released the PC’s report into the telecommunications USO on 19 June 2017. The report provides a range of recommendations regarding the future of universal access to a minimum level of retail telecommunication services.

The final report is available on the Productivity Commission’s websiteYou can read the BIRRR Submission to the Productivity Commission here.

The Government released its response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation on 20 December 2017. The response outlined the Government’s intention to establish a Universal Service Guarantee to cover both broadband and voice services.

ACCAN TIP SHEET ON USO

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding any specific information for your service. Updated 18/08/19

Prepared for BIRRR by Kristy Sparrow.

 

What is a Mobile Small Cell ?

What types of towers/cells are used in MBSP projects?

The Australian Government is improving mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP). As of 18/3/19 there have been 4 rounds of Federal Government MBSP funding, you can read about each round here.

Types of Base Stations that maybe used in the Mobile Black Spot Program
Base Station Type Typical Coverage Radius Typical Use
Picocell 200m high rise building, hotel or car park use
Microcell 1-2km shopping centres, transport hubs, mine sites, city block, temporary events or natural disasters.
Macrocell 5-32km suburban, city and rural use
Macrocell – Extended Reach 50-150km using extender cell technology suburban and rural use

More details here http://www.mobilenetworkguide.com.au/mobile_base_stations.html

What is A Small Cell ?
Small Cells can be either Picocells or Microcells
  1. What is the range of a small cell?
    The range of a small cell is dependent on a number of variables. Small cells are only viable when they can be achieved at the right price point, which in simple terms means the site’s antennas (especially for small cells deployed as part of the Black Spot program) are normally mounted on an existing building. Coverage typically therefore extends a radial distance of approximately 300m from the site.
  2. Does it only support 4G?
    The small cells we are deploying are 4G only. Telcos believe that this provides support for advanced voice and data features at the best cost point. Addition of 3G capability would significantly add to the deployment cost and render it economically unviable.
  3.  And therefore they need to use Voice over WiFi
    Voice calls on 4G small cells require the handset to support VoLTE (Voice on LTE). If the handset also supports Voice over WiFi (e.g. the new Samsung S8 & S8+ blue tick phone) then it will seamlessly handoff from VoLTE (outside coverage) to VoWiFi if say a premise has fixed broadband connected to a WiFi access point.
  4. If a community wanted to upgrade the small cell to increase coverage, is that something we’d consider.
    The viability of a small cell program relies on a low cost solution delivering an acceptable coverage solution for our customers. The rollout of the Small cell program for the Federal Government Blackspot program is a good example of this. Telcos always aim to maximise the coverage we provide for a community within the funding constraints. If a community wishes to contribute towards augmentation of a site then we are happy to review that on a case by case basis.

Thanks to Telstra for the above information on small cells.

Telstra have also developed a lower cost version of the Mobile Satellite Small Cell, see details below.  To register your interest in a small cell, contact Telstra via email – TelstraRegionalAffairs@team.telstra.com

 

Prepared by Julie Stott & Kristy Sparrow for BIRRR, Source: Australian Financial Review Source: Department of Communications and Arts

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider regarding your own connection issues and best plans available.

 

 

What is NGWL

Next G Wireless Link service is like the Landline Home Phone service provided by Telstra under the Universal Service Obligation where it is impractical/uncommercial for Telstra to run a landline service and the Next G is available.

The service is not the equivalent of a standard Telstra fixed line service and is not supplied by Telstra in fulfilment of Telstra’s Universal Service Obligation. The Customer Service Guarantee Standard does not apply to the Service. The service does not provide calls at 3.1kHz bandwidth. (More information here)

Stands for Next G Wireless Link

Next G Wireless Link exploits the coverage and data capabilities of Next G 850MHz network to provide:

  • Voice
  • Fax
  • Broadband internet

 

UPDATE April 2018

Telstra is inviting NGWL customers to get in contact to discuss their current NGWL plans including options for accessing the current range of HomeLine plans (https://www.telstra.com.au/home-phone/plans-rates). There are also options for NGWL customers with an existing broadband plan to move onto a 25GB BigPond Mobile Broadband plan for 12 or 24 months with a $70 monthly credit (data for use in Australia). Customers, if interested, can call Telstra’s dedicated team on 1800 696 495 (1800-MY-NGWL) option 3 (sales, accounts and payments) to find out more.

[Next G Wireless Link (NGWL) uses the Telstra Next G® Network to give customers access to a voice[fax] and internet service. It’s offered to selected customers as an alternative to a standard fixed line service, in certain circumstances.]

Graphics from a presentation to the ICEWL conference in 2008
Developing Telecommunications eLearning modules: Field Work Force Performance Support
John Sandler, Telstra, Australia
https://www.icelw.org/proceedings/2008/start.htm

Complaining to the TIO

Complaining to the Ombudsman WHEN the fault is not the providers; (as is 99% of the current Sky Muster problems) does absolutely nothing, zip and zero … except damage and create more work for a provider already up to their ears and battling with a re-recalcitrant wholesaler ie nbn.

  • You can only lodge a claim citing your provider.
  • You cannot lodge a claim against Hills, SkyBridge, Ericsson or nbn (Sky Muster faults).

Your service provider most likely gets whacked with an automatic fee (for details click here) and if you may find that they dump you as a customer. It will be one option offered by the TIO (and probably also mentioned in the RSP’s Terms & Conditions), then you only have yourself to blame.

If I was a provider … I’d dump you if it was not my fault and I had already explained that it wasn’t my fault and that it was out of my control.

Much better in the Sky Muster case, to lodge your problem very forcefully with a Government politician. Contact details for a government politician are here

Most certainly if your provider has not tried to help you AND you have given them every opportunity to resolve the problem; then go to the ombudsman with both barrels.

See how to make a complaint here, https://www.tio.com.au/making-a-complaint
You need to have made a complaint to your telecommunications service provider and it is unresolved, before you can complain to the TIO. You also need the relevant information when you lodge your complaint; for example, dates of important events and names of people you have spoken to.

The TIO will investigate landline, mobile and internet services, including:

  • contracts
  • connecting new services
  • transferring services
  • SIM unlocking fees
  • faults, dropouts and poor coverage
  • billing mistakes
  • billing and supply of mobile premium services
  • debt collection
  • services provided over the National Broadband Network (NBN)

Full details of all that the TIO will investigate are listed here

The TIO will not investigate (among others) the following:

  • ADSL internet not being available to you because there is no infrastructure
  • NBN services not being available to you because there is no infrastructure

 *Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with NBN or your RSP regarding your own connection issues.

Kindly prepared and illustrated for BIRRR by John Kitchener 12/7/2016

 

MEDIA RELEASE: ‘GETTING LEFT BEHIND’ (Survey results)

MEDIA RELEASE:  ‘GETTING LEFT BEHIND’
Internet Survey unearths critical need for widespread changes to combat #DataDrought

The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia (BIRRR) Regional Internet Access Survey, released this week, has revealed critical problems with Australia’s current internet options, and warns of long-term consequences if changes are not urgently made.

The survey, distributed through the BIRRR Facebook group, investigates current consumer conditions for people in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia using the internet.

The in-depth report found that rural, regional and remote people are severely disadvantaged in terms of access, speeds, cost and reliability of their internet connections, whether they be via mobile broadband or via satellite.

These issues have had (and continue to have) a dramatic effect on rural, regional and remote peoples business, the education of their children and themselves, and on their personal well-being.

It also illustrates the notion – even with the onset of NBN’s Skymuster – that data growth will soon outgrow the nbn Fair Use Policy that will see 75GB/month peak use data limits on customers.

Among the statistics revealed from this survey:

Internet in RRR Australia is mainly used for business (Fig 2, p 8)
88% of RRR respondents stated current data did not meet their needs (Fig 5, p10)
Mobile Broadband costs those surveyed an average of $9.27 per GB, with some consumers paying up to $20 per GB. (p18)
Satellite broadband costs an average of $15.96 per GB, with some consumers paying up to $70 per GB (Table 20, p 28)
63% of respondents are shaped more than 6 times per year, with over 40% being shaped every single month. (Table 11 p 19 for mobile, Table 23, p 29 for satellite)
74% of mobile broadband users (Fig 11, p21) and 89% of satellite users (Fig 18, p 30) have download speeds under 5Mbps
72% of mobile broadband users had to purchase extra equipment at their own cost, usually between $1000 – $2000 (Fig 20, p33)
73 % respondents do not have reliable mobile coverage (Fig 20, p33)
41% said their address would not register on the NBN database. (Fig 21, p 35)
65% of people not confident that they are aware of their nbn options (Fig 23, page 40)
92% gave a score of six or above indicating that they would recommend the BIRRR to friends and family (Fig 24, p 41)

BIRRR founder and admin Kristy Sparrow said the results reinforce the need for an independent telecommunications advisory body to help guide consumers through the bush broadband ‘jungle of options and answers’, along with an established universal service guarantee for regional Australians.

“There needs to be an established service guarantee for internet services Australia wide. Service for regional, rural and remote customers should be equitable in terms of speed, download capabilities and costs.

“If this does not occur regional Australia will be left (even further) behind.”

The survey was conducted up to the end of January 2016, and reflects the incredible frustrations endured by those living and using internet beyond Australia’s city limits.

“There is little doubt that the world is becoming more and more centred around the internet – from business accounting clouds to online education courses and distance education, from virtual medical consultations to emergency contact points, from the latest app developments for farming ventures and simple tools of communication, it’s all happening online.

“Internet access is no longer an ‘option’ – it’s an essential part of everyday life.” (Internet access was declared a basic human right by United Nations in 2011.)

The BIRRR survey reflects also community concerns about accommodating the growth of data use.

“People are clearly worried that as more and more activities become data hungry, current and proposed plans will be unable to handle the extra load. We already know data use growth is a continuing upward trend: The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports the average broadband downloads grew more than 33 per cent from December 2013 to December 2014.”

This same ABS report showed that, on average, each Australian household has eight Internet connected devices – already many bush connections cannot support that load, and there is increasing concern that data limits announced for SkyMuster by nbn will simply not be sufficient into the future.

“Currently internet connectivity does not meet the educational, business, health & welfare needs of regional Australians. Peak Data of 75GB on NBN satellite will not future proof Australia’s data needs. Nor will it end the #datadrought. The Long Term Satellite is not a long term solution for rural, regional and remote users of the internet. “

Another major ‘sticking point’ are off-peak periods to be enforced via Skymuster.

“With much of the data available on plans currently being offered to customers looking to use SkyMuster only accessible between 1am and 7am, it is simply not ‘user friendly’,” Mrs Sparrow said.

“This survey illustrates clearly that regional Australians are frustrated with their current set-ups and not confident about long-term ‘fixes’ such as the Skymuster satellite (LTSS).”

Full survey findings here: 2016 BIRRR SURVEY RESULTS
For further information: birrraus@gmail.com


Following: illustrations from the 2016 BIRRR survey report

  data survey map

Respondents came from right around Australia.

meeting needs image

Overwhelmingly, current services do not meet needs.

mobile download upload speeds

sat upload download speeds

cost to access mobile service

nbn addressing issues

Among the many hurdles – registering to find out nbn availability!

birrr preferred info

Figure 24: Reinforcing the need for an independent telecommunications advisory body to help guide consumers through the bush broadband ‘jungle of options and answers’.

A very special thanks to Rachel Hay, PhD Student & Sessional Lecturer, James Cook University, Townsville, for compiling and analysing survey data for this report.

Telstra Air Explained

FREE WiFi with TELSTRA AIR

Telstra Air is Free Wi-Fi at thousands of Telstra Air hotspots across Australia for eligible Telstra mobile (available 15 December 2015 – 30 June 2016 ONLY) and broadband customers.  You can check your eligibility here: TELSTRA AIR

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There are two options for Telstra Air:

OPTION 1 Mobile Customers: For those using mobile phones, prepaid devices, sim only plans etc. You can access the internet via FREE Telstra Air Hotspots from 15 December 2015 to 30 June 2016. If you activate the offer, you’ll get access at no charge to available Telstra Air Wi-Fi hotspots in Australia for your personal use until the end of the offer period.

NB: BigPond Mobile Broadband, satellite mobile broadband and business customers are NOT eligible.

OPTION 2 Home Broadband Customers: If you have ADSL, Cable or NBN connection and have a compatible gateway you can become a member of Telstra Air.  This uses your home data allowance when you are away from home, it accesses the internet via Telstra Air hotspots.  You will need to become a Telstra Air member first.

To join Telstra Air – CLICK TO JOIN

To find a Telstra Air Hot Spot use this tool

The Telstra Air App is also a quick and easy way to connect, locate hotspots and more

I’m a bigpond mobile broadband customer for my home internet plan and a business customer for my mobiles, which makes me ineligible for Telstra Air.  However thanks to the generosity of fellow BIRRR members I have been offered Telstra Air passwords (for Option 2) to use when I am travelling.  You may also be able to find family or friends who have large home broadband accounts that are willing to share their data.

*Compiled by Kristy Sparrow for BIRRR 15/1/2016 Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with Telstra regarding  your plans and the use of Telstra Air.

Mobile Service and Modems

What type of mobile service do I require in the home?

Now that you’ve sorted out your antenna using the BIRRR Antenna Installation Guide; what sort of mobile service do you require for your home service?

  1. Do you require a mobile data connection only ie a modem to provide internet?
  2. Would you like both a mobile phone and a mobile data service?

To date, mobile phone services in Australia have worked on 3G and not 4G. The best and fastest data services are available on 4G. Voice services over 4G (or LTE), known as VoLTE, arrived at the end of 2015 ref, however for VoLTE to work, your mobile phone must be VoLTE compatible.

When deciding on the best antenna for your location, your requirement for voice and/or data is important; as you may require an antenna that works with the best 3G and the best 4G frequencies at your location. In ‘the bush’ it is relatively straightforward. For Telstra you will almost certainly be using 3G on 850 Mhz and 4G on 700 Mhz; whilst for Optus you will find 3G is on 900 Mhz and 4G on 700 Mhz. Both Telstra and Optus continue to expand their 700 Mhz 4G networks (as at end 2015).

 A Data (internet) only mobile installation

A data only installation will terminate your antenna system with a wireless hotspot, USB wireless modem (wingle), USB modem or mobile phone. These basic connection systems do not provide LAN cable access (to your home network) and a USB modem option traditionally does not provide WIFI access, although there are some exceptions to this.

For Telstra Netgear Modems adding an ‘AirCard Smart Cradle’ will improve WIFI signal & provide Lan Cable access.

For Telsta Netgear hotspots you may add an ‘AirCard Smart Cradle’ cradle. This improves the WIFI signal and provides LAN cable access.

For Optus modem / routers with LAN access, try the Huawei E5186, ask at your local Optus store however they are a bit difficult to order.

Or you may enhance the service of your modem, wingle, hotspot or mobile phone by adding a router to improve the WIFI signal and provide LAN cable access. Dovado, TP-link, D-link, Netcomm and others, provide routers that interface to data devices. Check that your data device is supported by the router manufacturer. Dovado are unique in that they concentrate and supply only modem compatible routers. See our equipment suppliers and manufacturers document.

NB:  Bigpond plans are ONLY compatible with some modems, please check what plan you are on before changing modems.

Mobile Phone and Data (internet) installation

Cel-Fi – The Telstra Mobile Smart Antenna TMSA or Nextivity Cel-Fi Mobile Boosters, are good all in one solutions. It is important that you purchase the latest 4G compliant (Telstra network only) Smart Antenna/Cel-Fi unit and that it is correctly installed for optimum performance. It is not a cheap option. Smart Antennas/Cel Fi Boosters are provider specific, you need to purchase the correct one for the provider you use. Cel-Fi Boosters and Telstra branded Smart Antennas are similar. BIRRR highly recommend using surge protectors with these devices, you will need two surge protectors , one for each powerpoint. All other boosters using power are ILLEGAL.

Bluetooth Cordless Phone – By using a mobile phone (external antenna port may be required) and a suitable Bluetooth cordless phone you may achieve a quality mobile voice connection without resorting to the Telstra Smart Mobile Antenna or Cel-Fi unit.

As an example that many may be familiar with, Bluetooth in a motor vehicle may be used to provide hands free mobile phone operation.

An appropriate cordless Bluetooth phone can be used to provide the same feature in home. Uniden, Panasonic, Telstra and VTech provide suitable cordless Bluetooth handsets that are compatible for incoming and outgoing mobile network calls for less than $200.

Place the mobile phone at a good reception point or connect an external antenna to the phone. Many Telstra branded mobile phones support the an external antenna. The use of an external antenna is important for locations where no mobile reception is available in the home

Ensure that your Bluetooth cordless handsets have the following features:

  1. Supports both incoming and outgoing calls.
  2. Provides a USB port to maintain the charge on your mobile handset.
  3. Includes an answering machine if that feature is required.

Note: A mobile phone and a data modem cannot share the same external antenna, so two antennas may be necessary if both phone and data are required. It may be a bit of a fiddle using Bluetooth, but once done, it could be a lifesaver.

Optus WIFI calling – If you have a mobile phone service with Optus, Optus WIFI Calling is now available. Using an Optus Smart phone App, it allows your Optus mobile phone to connect via WIFI, to any internet service. It does not matter if your internet connection is via a Telstra mobile data connection or ‘nbn anything’ (including satellite), to make voice calls.

Anywhere you can access WIFI, you can use Optus WIFI calling. Your Optus mobile phone will receive voice calls whenever it is WIFI connected.

Call costs are billed against your Optus mobile account.

If you have an Optus mobile phone service and WIFI, your Optus mobile phone will just work; without any other bibs and bobs!

Telstra may at some time in the future provide WIFI calling?

How to extend a mobile data service from a mobile reception location (hill etc) to home

A solar transponder or a mobile data relay may be installed to relay internet from a mobile friendly location on your property back to your home. Here is one DIY example:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BIRRR/permalink/435443363331023/

The commercial provision of this type of installation is common for remote businesses and households. Contact the BIRRR recommended specialists.

I have Satellite and a Mobile data service

If you have both a mobile data and a satellite service you need a way to easily switch between the two such that you may utilise the satellite connection (low cost, high latency) and your mobile data connection (high cost, low latency) when and as required.

The simplest way is to install two WIFI routers. One router is connected to the satellite service and one router to the mobile service.

Wirelessly connect to the service you wish to use for the internet operation you are undertaking.

*Please note, while all care has been taken in compiling BIRRR documents, we recommend that you check with your service provider, regarding your own connection issues.

Prepared  for BIRRR by John Kitchener 7/1/2016