Melbourne, Australia - Green fiber optic NBN cable behind an installation truck, part of the National Broadband Network, supplying homes with high speed broadband.
Melbourne, Australia - Green fiber optic NBN cable behind an installation truck, part of the National Broadband Network, supplying homes with high speed broadband.

Telstra boss’ warning on internet use

Telstra CEO Andy Penn has warned customers might have to ration their internet and solve their own problems as more people working from home places strain on the network.

Speaking to ABC's 7.30 current affairs program last night, Mr Penn warned the increased traffic could cause problems.

"When the family is at home, if the kids are studying at home and the parents are working from home maybe don't try and all use the internet at the same time and mitigate the extent to which you're doing that," Mr Penn said on the program.

"Other ideas are, you know if you want to watch a movie maybe think about downloading it overnight rather than streaming it live," he added.

Mr Penn said the different mix of technologies on the NBN will behave differently.

Lucky customers with access to fibre-to-the-premises connections will likely have a better time than those relying on the old copper network to connect them to a node that plugs into the fibre national broadband network.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn warned telcos are having problems with call centres.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn warned telcos are having problems with call centres.

If you are having problems you might have to try and fix them yourself.

"One thing I would encourage people to do is go to the Telstra website or our 24/7 app. There's lots of ways that you can actually self-serve digitally, and candidly, right now that would be incredibly helpful because we do have issues across the industry with call centres, because while we've got about 20,000 people working from home in Telstra, it is much harder to have our call centre people work from home," Mr Penn warned.

Australia's major telcos are responding to the coronavirus pandemic by offering free and additional data to customers and additional benefits to particularly vulnerable groups like pensioners as more people stay and work from home.

Earlier this week the NBN and telcos met to discuss the capability of the national broadband network as more people try to conduct business on slower residential NBN plans.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman that deals with consumer complaints has reported a slight increase in complaints but isn't ready to blame that on more people working from home just yet.

"We are experiencing a slight uptick in complaints this week, however this is comparable to complaint volumes at the same time last year," ombudsman Judi Jones told news.com.au.

"We are continuing to monitor complaint volumes on a daily basis, and continuing to work closely with the phone and internet providers on a daily basis to ensure consumers remain connected.

"We know remaining connected through phone and internet services during this time is more critical than ever."

 

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones. Picture: Ian Currie
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones. Picture: Ian Currie

But the level of complaints, like the coronavirus, has a long "incubation period", so it's probably too early to properly tell the scope of the problem at this stage.

"Residential consumers and small businesses first need to try to resolve their complaint with their phone or internet provider. If the complaint remains unresolved consumers can make a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, we're here to help."

While customers have to deal with their telco before going to the ombudsman, there's no such barrier stopping people complaining on social media, where they are doing so in droves.

 

 

Telcos and the NBN are trying to ensure capacity on the network.

The three major telcos, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have also announced what they will do to support customers during the pandemic outbreak of coronavirus.

 

TELSTRA

Telstra has pledged to give its consumer and small business broadband customers unlimited data until the end of April.

Postpaid mobile and mobile broadband customers can get an extra 25GB of data to use for 30 days.

Prepaid customers on Max, Extra, Plus, Freedom Anytime and Freedom Unlimited plans can get an extra 10GB for 28 days if they have an active recharge more than $40.

Other prepaid customers can take advantage of the same offer and have 30 days to use the data.

Eligible pensioners on a home phone plan can make unlimited local, national and 13/1300 calls.

Calls to mobile phones are also free within Australia.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn Picture: AAP/David Crosling
Telstra CEO Andrew Penn Picture: AAP/David Crosling

"With data traffic increasing we are encouraging customers to make use of the self-service tools available on the latest Telstra 24x7 and MyTelstra apps for iOS and Android," the company said when announcing the changes. "This allows customers to check account information and pay bills while easing the burden on our call centres.

Telstra was asked on Monday if there would be any bill relief offered to customers who lose their jobs as a result of coronavirus and its flow-on effects, but the company hasn't responded.

 

OPTUS

Optus has announced relief for some customers but not all.
Optus has announced relief for some customers but not all.

Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin sent a message to customers on Tuesday afternoon to "let (them) know what Optus is doing to support our team, our customers, and our community to get through the uncertainties we all face".

Optus residential NBN and 5G Home Broadband customers already get unlimited data in their plan.

"Eligible" mobile customers can get 20GB of extra data, but not for another fortnight, and only if they remember to activate it themselves through the MyOptus app.

"Eligible" prepaid customers can get an extra 10GB if they recharge more than $40.

Optus is yet to say what plans are "eligible" or respond to concerns that 4G Home Broadband customers, who don't get unlimited data like the handful of 5G customers who can connect to the faster and newer network, appear to have been ignored in the announcement.

Ms Bayer Rosmarin, who recently replaced Allan Lew as CEO said she would be donating one month of her own salary "to support those affected by coronavirus and those researching vaccines and other medical approaches".

It's not clear exactly how much that is but Optus' parent company Singtel's annual report from 2019 showed Allen Lew had a salary of $1.56 million (though he was paid a few million more in bonuses and benefits).

Optus said it had a "range of measures" to help customers experiencing financial hardship.

 

VODAFONE

Vodafone is activating the add-ons automatically but they aren’t quite as generous. Picture: Adam Yip
Vodafone is activating the add-ons automatically but they aren’t quite as generous. Picture: Adam Yip

Vodafone has also announced extra data and calls to help keep Australians connected.

"We want to make sure all Vodafone customers can stay as connected as possible to support their changed circumstances," Vodafone chief customer officer Ana Bordeianu said.

"As many customers are spending more time at home, including remote working, we are providing extra mobile data, unlimited standard national calls and free-rating official health websites."

She added the mobile and fixed networks are "well-equipped" to handle additional traffic but speeds may vary.

Vodafone is only giving an extra 5GB of data to customers but you don't need to activate it, the offer applies to all postpaid plans not just "eligible" ones (the exception being customers on endless data plans that already have unlimited data, as do Vodafone's NBN plans).

Active prepaid customers will get an extra 3GB of data on their next recharge.

Most Vodafone customers already have unlimited calls on their plans but the company will extend that to all customers from Friday next week until the end of April.

Vodafone also encouraged customers experiencing financial hardship as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 to contact the company "as soon as possible so we can support them".

As telcos are offering more data and free calls, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) are asking telcos to emphasise reliability "to ensure that no Australian is left offline during the COVID-19 pandemic".

"The fact is that an internet connection is now a basic utility," ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said. "If people can't afford to be online, or aren't guaranteed a reliable connection, there can be serious consequences."

ACCAN welcomed new telehealth services announced by the government but said they were no use if the people who need them most can't access them.

"These new telehealth services could benefit some of the most vulnerable members of our community. However, it is often these same vulnerable people who are struggling with the costs of keeping connected.

"If we want people to use and benefit from these telehealth services, the reality is that the affordability of broadband services has to be addressed."

Ms Corbin said it's the responsibility of telcos to ensure customers get the speeds they're promised as well.

 

 

 

 



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