Closing a network

Robert Clark
16 Apr 2008

It's rare enough that a telco will shut down a perfectly good network.

But what's unusual about the closure of Telstra's CDMA network is that it was itself built to replace another system cut down in its prime.

Therein hangs a story about telecom regulation, Down Under-style.

When the Australian market was deregulated in the early 1990s, the government saw the licensing as a means of getting several fiscal problems off its plate.

It gave the bankrupt satellite operator and its debts to Optus, and sold off a mobile license to Vodafone for A$300 million. In return, the government promised to shut down Telstra's AMPS analog mobile network by 2000.

No-one paid it much attention at the time, but as the date approached, rural communities lobbied furiously against it.

AMPS's large propagation range made it more suitable than GSM across the interior, and the angry farmers weren't going to take CDMA on a promise - especially as it meant buying a new phone.

Despite the anger, and a postponement of the switch-off date, it happened.

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