Telstra base station warning: “We didn’t get it right this time”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has cautioned Telstra, after it was found to have failed to comply with rules governing the deployment of mobile phone base stations in Australia.

The formal warning, which effectively puts Telstra on notice to minimise the risk of future breaches and ensure regulatory compliance, comes after an investigation by the country’s communications industry regulator into the telco’s rollout of mobile network infrastructure at a site in Canberra, evidently without adequate community consultation.

The ACMA investigated the company after a resident made a complaint. The investigation revealed that Telstra had contravened sections of the Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code in at least three ways.

According to the ACMA, Telstra failed to fully comply with its consultation plan, which would have required it to contact residents in the immediate vicinity of the base station.

The investigation also found Telstra had contravened the rules by not sending a letter containing the information to all interested and affected parties, and not acknowledging a written complaint within ten business days of its receipt.

For its part, Telstra has already taken steps to avoid similar problems in the future, including reviewing its contractor complaints handling procedures and implementing regular training.

“Consulting with local communities on new mobile towers is an important step in expanding our coverage and we didn’t get that right this time. We’ve looked at where we fell short of what’s expected and we’ll make sure we get it right next time,” a Telstra spokesperson told Telecom Times.

According to the ACMA, the rules in the code are aimed at ensuring telecommunications infrastructure providers give local councils and local communities a chance to have their say before deploying mobile network infrastructure.

“There is public concern about the rollout of mobile infrastructure, including small cell base stations, in residential areas,’ ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said. “Telcos must keep affected communities in the loop and consider their feedback when establishing or upgrading mobile phone base stations.”

According to the ACMA, this is the second such action taken by the regulator in the past six months as part of its efforts to ensure mobile carriers comply with the country’s base station deployment rules.

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