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The Scandal of the 3G Mobile Shutdown

ADH Staff WriterMarch 26, 2024

For large swathes of Australia the countdown is on to lose almost all mobile phone coverage – and just about no-one in Canberra seems to care.

Most people ‘enjoy’ solid 4G and even 5G signal in the major cities and towns, but once you hit the edges – the old-faithful 3G signal is often it.

In the era of the smartphone, 3G gives you a reliable phone call but nothing much else.

It’s what we all used to rely on but in 2024 it’s considered technologically “obsolete”.

Phone companies want to switch 3G off. They think it’s a waste of money, resources, and valuable bandwidth. And the Canberra bureaucracy agrees.

Vodafone has already flicked the switch.

Telstra will decommission all 3G in a matter of weeks.

Optus will go dead by September.

They all say ‘no-one wants 3G anymore’ … that’s of course, until there’s nothing else.

According the coverage maps, more than 700-thousand people will have nothing if 3G goes.

For all the marketing claims from the phone companies about “reaching 99 per cent of the Australian population”, in reality – it’s simply just not true.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts estimates that there are “three million 3G-reliant devices to be affected by the looming shutdown, including 200-thousand medical alarms”.

They’ll go dead.

More crucially, Senator Roberts says, “740-thousand 4G customers will be unable to dial Triple Zero in an emergency”.

He’s looking for an assurance that no Australian will be worse off.

No-one will give him or anyone that.

The phone companies know the truth – there are plenty of mobile blackholes.

And they’re not all in the Bush.

The Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser’s electorate takes in the always growing north-western outskirts of Sydney.

He has long campaigned for more reliable phone coverage and even proposed phone company executives face criminal charges for misleading claims about signal reliability.

Leeser’s electorate has suburbs where you can see the haze of the Sydney CBD in the distance but residents can’t make or receive mobile calls.

If they get weak signal – it’s only 3G.

Leeser makes plenty of noise about the problem in Parliament and yet nothing seems to change.

The Communications Minister Michelle Rowland waffles on about “seeking information from the Department to determine the scale of the problem”.

Two government agencies regulate mobile communications.

The ACCC does the pricing and competition bit and Communications and Media Authority ACMA does the rest.

But, on phone coverage ACMA is useless.

Their advice for people with issues is best summed up as – change location.

What’s the point of having a regulator if they can’t be stuffed doing their job?

The 3G solution, they say is to “upgrade your handset”.

That’s government code for go and spend few hundred dollars and buy a new one.

Not everyone can afford that.

And logically, if all you can get now is 3G and that’s about to go … how will buying a new phone fix anything?

This is a disaster waiting to happen and like many things this proves that government has never been bigger and never more useless.

They are about to cause a crisis – and once again, this is very preventable.

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