Telstra Wants Australian Connectivity to Come Out of the Stone Age

Telstra Wants Australian Connectivity to Come Out of the Stone Age

Australia has a little old thing called the Universal Service Obligation (the USO), which is basically a country-wide policy that makes sure the population has access to necessary basic phone services. However, it’s quite an old policy that includes the use and maintenance of old copper lines – and according to Telstra, it’s archaic compared to what we could be using.

Telstra’s put out a lengthy post on the USO. The company isn’t trying to thwart its responsibilities to the policy, but instead the company is calling on the Australian Government to make changes to bring it forward with newer, more reliable technology.

“Right now, the network that provides these basic standard telephone services (STS) to Australians in some areas relies on old copper and radio technology. It’s a dinosaur compared to what’s available today. They’re so old that some of the technology required is no longer being manufactured, and we’re having to recycle and refurbish old parts to keep it going,” Telstra’s regional Australia executive and regional customer advocate Loretta Willaton said in its post.

If you’re unfamiliar with why copper isn’t particularly great for networking these days, it comes down to a few things. Firstly, it’s often expensive to maintain considering outages (you only have to look to the NBN’s FTTC and FTTN connections for that). Moreover, compared to the service quality you get with a 4G network, fibre (via VOIP), or even a satellite network (via Skymuster or a Low-Earth Orbit satellite network like Starlink), you don’t really get any benefit.

“Services based on satellite connectivity, for example, can be deployed into hard-to-reach areas faster, without the need for lengthy, complicated and high cost deployments. That means more Australians can have a reliable universal telephony service even faster.

Additionally, new and more reliable technology can open up opportunities for business and economic growth in remote areas. And importantly, it makes sure that those living in remote communities don’t become isolated from all-important human contact,” Willaton added.

But let’s not get it twisted – Telstra admits that while 99.6 per cent of Aussies can access at least one mobile network, only a third of Australia’s landmass is covered by networks. For this reason, Telstra isn’t calling for an all-mobile solution to the problem.

Rather, Telstra wants to see a technological mix solution.

“Expanding mobile connectivity to meet the USO’s standards across 100 per cent of Australia’s territory is just not technically or financially feasible, especially when LEO satellite technology already offers vastly superior coverage benefits for rural and regional Australians. Challenges including how far mobile signal can travel; how it could (or couldn’t) penetrate buildings for indoor coverage, and how expensive it would be to cover very remote areas,” Willaton said.

The telco makes a lot of good points, frankly. It doesn’t sound like it’s curbing responsibility, although it isn’t surprising that it’s getting so strongly behind Low-Earth Orbit satellites just months after starting to sell such services.

The Australian Government is currently reviewing the USO.

Image: iStock