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Mobile-phone jamming equipment at Goulburn Jail soon

02 Nov 2016

THE recent spate of inmates being caught with mobile phones in Goulburn Correctional Centre may be coming to an end, with a two-year trial of phone-jamming equipment to start at the prison soon. 

A Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman said the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently approved a two-year trial of phone-jamming equipment at the Goulburn jail. 

“Mobile phones are becoming smaller and harder to detect all the time,” the spokeswoman said. 

“We put a lot of effort into preventing the use of these phones by inmates, but for maximum effectiveness, jamming needs to be part of our approach.”

The spokeswoman confirmed that, in 2015/16,  81 mobiles, 60 chargers, 46 SIM cards and 29 USB sticks were seized across NSW prisons by Corrective Services staff. 

This was down from the previous year (2014/15) where 114 mobiles, 121 chargers, 76 SIM cards and 18 USBs were found. 

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Operators all talk: Put money where mouth is on mobile roaming

02 Nov 2016

Farmers are natural innovators but in this day and age it's difficult to innovate when you can't connect to the outside world. So, when it comes to debates about mobile roaming, it is still mobile coverage that is front of mind for farmers. Coverage is king. 

Farmers are the people that stand to benefit most from roaming, or suffer most, depending on your point of view, but in all of the public rhetoric so far, none of the mobile network operators have articulated in any detail what they will do to improve mobile coverage for farmers if the ACCC's roaming decision "goes their way".

Telstra unveiled an extra $3 billion in spending at its recent AGM. Telstra's new chairman John Mullen, said that "if the regulatory settings … remain favourable", then its 4G network would eventually reach 99 per cent of the population. But will that mean that Telstra's mobile footprint is expanded? Telstra's 3G network currently covers 99.3 per cent of the population, and there are a lot of farmers in that last 1 per cent that are looking for a commitment to go beyond the current 3G coverage area.

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Telstra says TV amplifier blamed for poor Gunnedah mobile coverage

02 Nov 2016

A faulty television amplifier has been blamed for Gunnedah’s intermittent mobile coverage issues.

Telstra Area General Manager Mike Marom said they were investigating an “external inference” with the George Street mobile tower.

“We have had some external interference which was at times causing intermittent issues to some mobile services in the Gunnedah area,” Mr Marom said.

By Tuesday, the problem was resolved and discovered to be a faulty television amplifier used in the area.

“That interference has now been identified and removed and coverage is back to normal,” he said.

Reasons for such problems varied but were often unintentional and caused without persons realising the impact they had on local services.

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Regions lose in telco policy fight

25 Oct 2016

It is a national disgrace that must be born by every government since Bob Hawke’s that the Australian telecommunications market is still so effectively dominated by Telstra, which rakes off huge profits each year at the expense of Australian businesses and consumers.

By definition that means Australia continues to give up potential, and much needed productivity gains. It has cruelled Australian industry’s collective ability to compete in an increasingly global environment.

In the annual Charles Todd Oration last week, Vodafone Hutchison Australia’s Spanish chief Inaki Berroeta noted that there is virtually no telecommunications competition or choice in regional and rural Australia.

He added that Australia is “one of the most concentrated telecommunications markets in the western world; and that it has “relatively low fixed-broadband penetration and some of the highest fixed-line prices in the world.”

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Mobile blackspot no more

23 Oct 2016

Tatong is a mobile blackspot no more, the first of Indi's towers to be switched on

The remote community of Tatong is no longer living in technological isolation after its new mobile phone tower was switched on.

From having no reception, which put residents in danger in the event of a bushfire or other emergency, Tatong now has coverage Telstra claims is equivalent to that in any Australian city.

The tower was first to be switched on of the 30 funded through the federal government’s mobile blackspot program, in a partnership between Telstra and state and local governments.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan said it was an exciting day.

Tatong, positioned at the foothills of the Tolmie ranges near Benalla, was full of farmers growing businesses.

“There is up to 500 families that are going to be benefiting from this tower – they haven’t had access to mobile phone coverage and they haven’t had access to the internet, in terms of good quality internet,” Ms McGowan said.

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ACMA starts discussion of spectrum re-farming for 5G

21 Oct 2016

International plans for the early adoption of 3.6GHz for 5G services have led the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to bring forward public discussion of the use of this part of spectrum.

In Australia, the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands are used for a variety of services, including fixed-broadband and other fixed radio services, satellite services, and military purposes.

"In the last year, consideration of these bands for mobile broadband has progressed significantly on the international stage," said acting ACMA chairman Richard Bean. "Given the momentum developing, the time is right for us to consider the potential for re-planning the bands in Australia."

ACMA has released a discussion paper — Future use of the 1.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands — and has invited public comment on the issues.

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How Vodafone came back from Vodafail

19 Oct 2016

IT WAS the perfect storm.

In mid-2009, Vodafone had just merged with 3 — the Hong Kong company that completely disrupted the mobile industry at the start of the 3G age. It was a move that was meant to cover Vodafone’s bases before the impending smartphone revolution. But the revolution had already begun.

While Optus and Telstra had been preparing for the surge in data usage for several years, Vodafone and its engineers had focused their time on the merger. When the sudden surge of data demand hit, the telco’s resources were stretched and base stations could not be built or upgraded to cope with the demand. Add to that an influx of customers moving to the network due to what appeared to be the best value mobile plans in the business, and Vodafone was face-to-face with a tsunami that was going to take it out.

And take it out it did. More than two million customers left the network between 2010 and 2013. Calls dropped out, data was slow and to call the coverage patchy would have been a compliment. Enter four years of #Vodafail.

Fast-forward to today and the company has turned around completely. It boasts arguably the best metro mobile network in the country, and some of the best value plans.

It’s a result of more than $3 billion of infrastructure and customer support investment, including building one of the fastest 4G networks in the country.

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Mid October Update

19 Oct 2016

The big news this fortnight is Vodafone’s rollout of 4G2100 upgrading a total of 159 sites with 69 site upgrades in QLD alone. Previously ACT, QLD, SA and WA were the states of focus, so it would seem that continues with the exception of ACT, VIC and NSW also got a couple of 4G2100 upgrades which would indicate that perhaps those states are next on this rollout list. Vodafone also managed to install 11 new sites mostly in conjunction with Optus.

Optus comes in next with 67 site upgrades as well as 17 new sites. Optus recently begun rolling out 4G900 and continues to do so, with 2G not being switched off for another 6 or so months it’s hard to imagine they have the spectrum in that band to actually deploy it. Perhaps they are rolling it out but not actually activating it until the switch off of 2G, time will tell. 

Telstra continues to plod along with 60 site upgrades as well as 5 new sites. 4G700 continues to be Telstra’s focus, with one 2G only tower also finally getting 3G in preparation of their 2G switch off no doubt.

NBN continues its slow rollout, Activating 9 new sites. NBN also managed to upgrade a further 12 sites.

The low band 700mhz 4G gap between Optus and Telstra has decreased by 10 sites as Telstra continues plod along. Optus is still ahead of Telstra however in 4G700 by 1056 sites.

Government seeking Triple Zero IP-based calls provider

16 Oct 2016

The Triple Zero call system will soon be transitioning to an IP-based environment, with the government also wanting more accurate location-based information from mobile calls.

The Australian government has put out a request for expressions of interest (EOI) for carriers to provide an "enhanced" Triple Zero emergency call service to keep up with evolving technologies, as well as an EOI process for solutions to allow location-based information from mobile phone emergency calls to be sent automatically.

The EOI processes are in response to 2014's Review of the National Triple Zero (000) Operator, which recommended that the Triple Zero service be transitioned to an IP environment.

"Australians' expectations regarding emergency assistance have changed since Triple Zero was introduced as a voice-only service in 1961, when fixed-line telephones were the primary means of communication," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said on Thursday.

"Today, the majority of calls to Triple Zero come from mobile phones, and the rapid development of new technologies has enabled a range of new communications options. The EOI process is the latest step in ensuring all Australians have access to a world-class service which can keep pace with new and innovative technologies."

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Telstra's fight to keep mobile network to itself

15 Oct 2016

Australia's telecos finally got back to what they do best this week - publicly sledging each other over competition issues.

No wonder the gloves are off. The competition watchdog sent shockwaves through the sector last month when it launched an inquiry into domestic mobile roaming services - including the crucial question of whether Telstra should be forced to share its prized regional network with its competitors at commercial rates.

For Telstra's rivals, Vodafone and TPG, the action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission represents a prime opportunity to prise open Telstra's lock on mobile signals around Australia and its unrivalled status as the offerer of Australia's biggest network. For Telstra, it represents a threat so stark that it is mobilising its army of 1.4 million retail shareholders and laying out battle plans.

It is a fight that is pitting a big one-time monopoly against smaller upstarts, and retail shareholders against regional customers. And it is now threatening to spill over into the political realm.

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