Burringbar out of reach

Write body Text: Dn2103_lead RESIDENTS of Burringbar struggling with poor telephone services have won a reprieve from Telstra's troubled Next G mobile network. The federal government last Friday directed the giant telco to keep its regional CDMA network operating in rural and regional areas for another 90 days at least. Telstra had planned to close down the CDMA service from January 28 and replace it with the $1.2 billion Next G system. The Burringbar locals are among thousands of Tweed and North Coast residents in country areas now left waiting until April 28 at the earliest before the Next G network replaces their often less-than-adequate CDMA service. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has ordered Telstra to improve its Next G system, which began operating in some regions nine months ago, so that it at least provides the same coverage, or better, than the CDMA phones, in line with Telstra's operating licence conditions. The government's ruling comes after reports from regulators that Next G in too many cases delivers a worse service than CDMA, with inferior coverage, handsets and retail services. Telstra has indicated it will advise Mr Conroy within two weeks on how it plans to address the Next G problems. Burringbar residents told the Tweed Daily News that cutting off the nine-year-old CDMA (Code Division Area Access) coverage and replacing it with Next G might end up increasing their isolation. David Lee, who works at the Burringbar Rainforest Nursery, said mobile phone communication in the village is a nightmare. "We've never had proper coverage in Burringbar, we're stuck in a black hole," Mr Lee said. "You've got to go to the top of the ridges if you want any reception," he said. Mr Lee was not confident the Next G technology would solve Burringbar's communication problems, nor that Telstra will ever be able to sort out Burringbar's notorious phone reception. "I can't imagine anything fixing it," he said. A NSW Farmers' Association survey found 71 per cent of 1200 respondents believed the CDMA service was more reliable than Next G. One common problem reported by the survey was that Next G calls go straight to message bank, despite handsets indicating there is a signal. The survey reported increased interest in phone services offered by Telstra competitor Optus.

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