Telstra’s 3G network is dying in CBDs


analysis Popularity has its downside. Reports from around Australia over the past week have made it very clear that Telstra’s flagship Next G network is often struggling to function at all in the CBDs of capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne during peak load times, leaving customers in the lurch without any access to wireless broadband.

On Tuesday this week I had a very unfamiliar experience.

After a meeting in North Sydney in the morning, I walked out of the café into a beautiful sunny Sydney day and attempted to check my email on my iPhone 4, as I do on a frequent basis. “That’s funny,” I thought to myself. “The little icon is spinning in the corner and I have full coverage, but nothing’s happening.”

At the time, I thought nothing of it, blaming the issue on temporary network congestion of some kind. I then caught a taxi over the bridge into the Sydney central business district, where I was scheduled to do the 6km torture run entitled ‘Pain in the Domain’ after lunch. As I often do, I planned to get some work done on my laptop on the road before this next commitment, tethering my iPhone to it to do so. But as I sat down on a park bench and booted up my laptop, again things took a turn for the bad, and mental storm clouds rolled over my previously sunny morning.

My iPhone was tethered to my MacBook Air through a USB cord. Once again I had full signal through Telstra’s Next G network. But once again, I sat looking at my screen and nothing was happening. I couldn’t load the articles I had earlier stored in cloud storage service Dropbox to post on Delimiter. I couldn’t file source material with my writers so that they could start writing the next batch of articles. I couldn’t moderate comments, respond to emails, check my RSS feeds, or even post a message to Twitter.

This cycle continued throughout the day. In the afternoon, following my run in Sydney’s Domain, I tried to check my email again. I was in a different part of the Sydney CBD, I reasoned — perhaps now coverage would be better. But nothing. And then, in a taxi on the way back to the office that afternoon, I tried again. Still nothing.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve had problems using mobile broadband on the road. If you’ve ever tried to access the Internet via a 3G network at a major technology conference such as the CeBIT show in Sydney, you will be very familiar with the feeling of technically having full coverage on your 3G device, but not being able to actually access anything due to congestion.

But I’m not used to having this experience as part of the normal run of business out on the road. Telstra’s Next G network is the best mobile network in Australia, after all — and that’s why I pay a premium for it. At one point I used it so much that I was actually paying for both smartphone and USB dongle broadband connections.

I describe the situation above to illustrate my own problems accessing the service this week. However, in fact I am far from alone in suffering these kinds of problems with Next G, and I’ve been hearing similar tales of woe from Delimiter readers for weeks now. A quick check of recent experiences on Twitter this morning confirmed the problem was widespread.

And the comments are always the same. This is how one Next G user put it this morning: “I went to a site and Next G was ok but I get 0.24Mbps download on right in the CBD of Sydney.” And from another: “The Melbourne CBD was shocking up until the last few weeks. I haven’t had any issues anywhere else though.” In short, Telstra’s Next G network is dying in central business districts — particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, although I’ve also heard of a few problems in Brisbane. And the story is always similar: Customers have full bars of coverage, but congestion appears to be blocking any data from actually arriving at their device.

However, there’s also a flip side — in areas outside the CBDs, Telstra’s Next G network tends to perform very well, with customers praising its speeds. And indeed, when I got back to my office in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs on Tuesday, my Next G connection was again its normal self.

The cause of the problem is clear — as I wrote in early February, Telstra is currently making out like a bandit in mobile and completely destroying its competition. The telco added almost a million new mobile customers to its roster over the past six months of 2011, that growth is relatively consistent at the moment. The results meant that Telstra, at the end of 2011, had a total of 13.1 million mobile customers of various stripes.

Most of those customers are undoubtedly being added where Australia’s population is clustered — in the major East coast cities. And when too many of those residents arrive in the city CBDs for work and start to check their smartphones — let alone use mobile broadband connections on their tablets or laptops — Telstra’s network buckles and then breaks.

It’s a phenomenon which has hit both or Telstra’s major rivals, Optus and Vodafone, before. In 2008, in the wake of attracting what it said was “the lion’s share” of new iPhone buyers when the hyped Apple handset launched in Australia, Optus was forced to speedily re-examine the capacity of its own 3G network, as the data-hungry iPhone soaked up all of its available power and turned much of the network into a static quagmire which data could not traverse.

Vodafone had its own problems in late 2010 and early 2011, earning it the label ‘Vodafail’, to go alongside Optus’ ‘#badoptus’ moniker. And the jury is still out on whether the company will be able to recover from that issue. A year on, Vodafone is still hemmoraging customers and frantically guaranteeing them that its network now works as expected — or their money back.

In comparison, Telstra is incredibly better prepared than either Optus or Vodafone were for these kinds of capacity problems within its network. 12 months ago, the telco was already rapidly deploying as much fibre backhaul and wireless capacity as it possibly could into its network, and it has acknowledged that its rollout of LTE/4G speeds in CBD areas is as much about removing high-use customers from its 850MHz 3G network as quickly as possible and shifting them onto a completely different spectrum band, 1800Mhz.

However, with Telstra continuing to add massive customer numbers, mobile data usage continuing to grow rapidly, huge numbers of customers converting from traditional mobile phones to data-hungry smartphones, tablets adding an entirely new category of mobile broadband users and the telco even opening up its network to resellers, one really has to wonder whether the telco will be able to keep up.

For many of us, right now, the telco’s current levels of congestion are a short-term inconvenience which will strike on some days in some areas. Even though our businesses literally depend on the network functioning, we can put up with a few outages here and there due to the generally high level of overall reliability of the service. But one has to wonder what the next six months are going to look like for the big T.

If the telco doesn’t get a handle on its current congestion issues in the next couple of months, the problem will become a self-propelling meme unto itself, as happened previously with Optus and Vodafone. Despite the fact that its network may actually be performing to acceptable levels, Telstra will not be able to easily halt the perception that it’s not. You only need to look at the lengths to which Vodafone is currently going to convince customers, a year later, that things are back to normal to understand the magnitude of the task of turning public opinion once it’s been decided that a mobile network is crap.

Right now, Telstra has a limited time frame to make this right. I’m sure Telstra’s engineers are very aware of this fact — and I’m sure that the level of activity within the telco on Next G reflects this.

Personally, I’ve already made my choice. I will be heading back into the Sydney CBD several times over the next few weeks for meetings. I will continue to attempt to perform normal activities such as checking my email on my smartphone and accessing the web via my laptop and iPad. However, if Telstra’s network continues to perform as it did on Tuesday, I will have no choice. I will continue to maintain my Telstra mobile plan, but I will also sign up for a cheap Optus smartphone as a backup option. Because I simply cannot afford to be offline for hours at a time whenever Telstra’s infrastructure buckles under the demand. And I’m sure many readers will feel the same.

How is your Telstra Next G connection tracking? Post your thoughts in the comments below.


    • Tezz has hit the nail on the head. I would speculate that Telstra has prioritized their network to give their 4g customers the premium access and 3g and GSM get the scraps. This couplied with the greater and greater demand are causing these problems. Telstra have just opened their 3g network for wholesale access by other providers so they need to make sure their new product is streets ahead. If you go to complain to telstra about slow 3g access I am sure they will be able to sell you a solution with a shiney new 4g phone and a nice long contract attached at well. It’s Business. It’s what I would do.

      • I was in Adelaide for the recent V8 event with IPhone 4S and a 4G USB device- 3G always falls over at Motorsport events due to the usual traffic congestion, but the 4G was still going strong. I was able to stream the ace to my laptop (it’s unmetered thank God)

        At the recent Bathurst 12 hour race I got this result with the 4G USB:!/thomasrdotorg/status/174050798085488641/photo/1/large

        I’ve said to many people that 4G is awesome- right until it’s use becomes widespread and then at a guess I’d say we’re back to contention and congestion issues again. (hope not!)


        • Wow. That’s a tasty download speed, but it’s the whopping upload speed I’m envying the most. 16 times faster than my ADSL2 connection! Can’t wait till I can upload to Dropbox at that kind of speed.

          • * actual results may vary. At a guess, there were very few 4G devices nearby. I thin I wont see speed like that again until NBN rolls out in my suburb.

          • Yeah I totally agree, particuarly as I live in Tasmania which is 1.) first to receive the NBN and 2.) probably the last to receive widespread 4G (going by previous Telstra roll-outs).

            Still, even though your results are ‘best case scenario’ and 4G performance will inevitably drop as more people join, your achieved speed is still a very good starting point! :)

            It will be nice when we have a good range of 1700hz LTE phones, and some reasonably priced 4G plans to choose from. I just hope Telstra can keep up with demand and don’t let 4G go the same way as their current shitty 3G network.

  1. Have to say Next G performance has dropped, even at home in Cranbourne (outer south eastern vic) during peak times. Went from a peak of around 12mbps down to 1 – 2 at around 6 – 7pm at the moment.

    In the city (melbourne), around 5pm – 6pm, especially somewhere like for instance a station, network comes to an abrupt and crappy halt, and I wait until i’m out a suburb or so before trying again.

    So yes, not sure what the answer is, but something needs to give.

  2. Yeap, it is poked in Melb CBD during lunchtimes that is for sure. Forget about using it in Swanston St. You have more luck heading into a Telstra store and doing what you need to do there on their micro cell.

    But hey, according to Turnbull, wireless is high speed broadband and we’ll be fine. Yeap, private enterprise can produce a well functioning internet solution…. NOT.

    I am in the process of assessing all my mobile broadband needs and wondering if I can just not bother and change how I work. Shame you have to go backwards in the ways we work.

  3. This has been the situation where I live for quite a while because of the limited amount of ports avaliable for adsl tens of thousands of people are using wireless as their only internet connection and it is totally unusable anytime after 6pm to midnight.

  4. Not just in CDBs. I live about 3kms away from the outskirts of a large regional town in WA, and regularly only get 0.1 to 0.2 Mbps on Telstra Next G.
    Luckily I can get Telstra 4G now – hopefully that doesn’t grind to a halt in future like 3G has!

  5. In the Melbourne CBD, Telstra’s 850 MHz data has been degrading for at least six months. Initially it was just lunch times, and it was just in specific areas (e.g. parts of Collins St). Now, it’s very slow at any time of the day, and during lunch it’s always useless in the busier areas of Swanston St and Collins St. It’s also unreliable in parts of Melbourne’s inner suburbs at around 6 pm – the time all those users are on their way home.

    My solution is to drop my iPhone to 2G edge, which I do as a matter of course now. It’s by no means an acceptable solution, and I’m furious that I need to keep doing it, but it does allow me to send emails and access small Dropbox files.

    Renai, your highlighting of Telstra’s new and burgeoning 3G demand is absolutely spot-on, but that doesn’t excuse Telstra’s inability to keep up. I’m guessing the backhaul is fine but the individual cells are overloaded. If I saw that coming six months ago – and I’m not a comms engineer – why didn’t Telstra?

    My phone contract expires in a few months, along with tens of thousands of iPhone 4 users. Telstra wants to have in place a bloody good network data proposition by then.

  6. Perth cbd has been experiencing the same issues for months.

    I’m in postcode 6060 most days and where it had begun to be an issue between 1500 and 1900, it now has spread through the day since last Saturday.

    Towers around me are all congested, upgrades are 3 to 6 months away; I’m outside 4G coverage; with support from Telstra I’m in the process of testing a high gain yagi pointing at a less congested tower.

    ADSL is being considered. I’ve not had a landline since 2003.

  7. I work in Sydney CBD and live within a few kilometres of the CBD. I’m not experiencing data throughput issues myself.

    At work, in Darling Quarter (~800m from Sydney GPO) I’m using a Telstra Elite mifi (3G) device to feed by tablet and mobile. As I write this response, I’m seeing sustained speeds of ~10Mbps down and 1.7Mbps up. Best speeds I’ve seen since starting work in this location five months ago.

    At home, I use a Telstra 4G USB dongle which feeds a wireless router for our entire household to use for internet access. Typically seeing 18-22Mbps down and 4-5Mbps up. It’s an expensive way to get data (temporary rental property) but it blitzes my old ADSL2 throughput :-)

  8. Virtually unusable on Swanston Street near Flinders Street Station during business hours. About 8Mbps during the evenings in the same location though (on my Samsung Galaxy S II).

    Despite the internet congestion, calls work well and e-mails still find their way to my phone.

  9. No surprises here. I’m one of the ex vodafone customers that have moved to telstra and caused this sudden increase in traffic. What people don’t realise is that vodafone will never be an acceptable network. I persevered while they put up 850MHz cells etc but it made no difference, and never will because they don’t have the backhaul capacity to service the traffic. When I first moved to NextG back in November it was great, but since the Christmas period it has degraded to the point of being useless.

    Your points in the article say it all – I always have maximum signal on my handset, so cell coverage is fine both with vodafone and telstra, but there is a congestion and backhaul capacity problem that needs fixing.

    I’m sure the telstra network people are aware of the congestion but I’d like to know if they are going to address it.

    And to everyone thinking 4G will be their saviour – don’t get excited. The 1800MHz transmitters are still hanging off the same towers as NextG and connected to the same backhaul, so you will be throttled along with everyone else. Unless of course telstra prioritise the 4G packets, which will make the NextG network performance even worse.

  10. I’ve been venting on Twitter for some time about a similar issue hitting Telstra mobile data users on the Town Hall station platforms during peak hours. Generally i’ll have full ‘bars’ but any attempt to speedtest or anything data related will time out entirely.

    After tweeting my frustration I was met with a chorus of similar stories from other Twitter users. Given that Town Hall station is so close to Telstra’s Sydney HQ.. you’d think one of them would notice and escalate the issue and get some more hamsters for the Town Hall wheel.

  11. I’m also having issues with with Telstra in the Melbourne CBD. For an alternative I’ve been considering an Woolworths SIM that uses the optus network. 5 gig data $29 pre paid with 45 days expiry. A technical friend of mine swears by the value.

  12. I support 20 iPhone and iPad users and most of them are reporting these problems in Sydney and Melbourne. Full signal but no data throughput at all. A good example is Town Hall station in the AM or PM peak, there is plenty of coverage but it’s not even possible to ping a speediest server.

    We’ve been making our issues known to our Telstra account manager and mobile specialists but so far they cannot (or will not) offer an explanation. Obviously it is congestion, it would be nice if Telstra would confirm this and confirm they are indeed trying to fix it.

    We love Telstra’s network but if things don’t improve we’ll be forced to look elsewhere. Our users need constant access to email, iMessage, our VPN as well as other web services, if we can’t get that when we need it we’ll be forced to move.

    Luckily in our offices we have WiFi for access but for a lot of our sales staff they are out and about and rely on Next G for data access.

    I did a post on my blog about the issues I have with data access on my iPhone

  13. I’d like to know how the three carriers compare side by side in the CBD under the circumstances described by this article.

    • Me too.

      I have no doubt that all these extra users are putting strain on Telstra’s network. However, I’d also hazard a guess that a good portion of people complaining about Telstra have no idea what the other carriers are actually like.

      I’ve found Optus to have noticeable performance issues in the Brisbane CBD in busy times. And while Vodafone is definitely better than it used to be, it’s still par for the course for it to be all but unusable in peak hour. I’d hate to think what Sydney is like.

  14. I first noticed the issue on iPhone 4S release day, where 3G data would trickle through at abnormally slow speeds, especially when trying to demonstrate Siri it would time out. Since that day, 3G data in the CBD where i work is almost non-existant. Refreshing email can take 3-4 minutes, refreshing twitter often times out, as do other apps like FB etc. Even basic google searches take about a minute.

    On the few times I’ve worked back late, after about 8pm the speed magically improves, and on a few occasions being called in to the office after midnight, 3G is lightening fast.

    Have been whining about it to @telstra on twitter, and reported it to the Telstra Blackspot complaints team who told me reception is good in Melb CBD…. it’s probably my handset……..take it in to get it looked at….. gee thanks guys.

  15. Strange that this issue gone public only now. I was using Telstra’s Mobile broadband in Melbourne CDB since last 2 yrs and had this issue since last 1 year – 3G never works in Melbourne CBD during the business hours. Initially Customer Care advised that it’s because of network congestion and suggested me to purchase an external antenna for approx $200. Finally, when I reported the same problem once again recently, they have given me only one option i.e. Disconnect my existing 3G service and start a new contract of 2 yrs with 4G. It’s annoying that Telstra didn’t perform any capacity reviews and just kept adding customers until the network congestion reaches it’s heights. I doubt the same might happen with 4G over coming years if they continue with same attitude!

  16. Not really adding anything that hasn’t already been said, but in parts of Melbourne CBD before 7:00pm or so it’s totally unusable. Collins/Russell and Queen/Flinders Ln areas are particularly bad.

    Currently based in Brisbane – 25th floor of a riverside building – and Telstra is all but dead (full bars mind you, just zero data throughput).

  17. I have been a NextG user since inception but I also recently purchased an Optus MiFi for backup due to congestion in Sydney as well as amazingly enough to get coverage in a part of Tassie that Telstra just doesn’t have coverage in.

    • Yeah Optus has apparently gone quite hard in Tassie.

      We’ll see how it goes. I wouldn’t be against signing up for an Optus plan just to have an excuse to pick up a Galaxy Nexus or similar ;)

      • It is not only the CBD that is being affected but the suburbs, my connections have been deteriorating since May 2011 and as a result of upgrades I live in a couple of streets that are not supported at all if the coverage map is correct and now they recommended antenna be installed when in the home on the iPhone, it does defeat the purpose of having a mobile phone if you have to attached an antenna to it when in your home …

    • Surprised by the improvement in Optus in tassie since we were here 4 years ago ..Have found places where the telstra service slows to almost unuseable speeds in the evening .ie Mount Field and Woodbridge. I ended up buy an Optus dongle when we were in Woodbridge speeds were around 10 times faster in the evening .. I can see travelling with both dongles being the way of the future..

    • Very interesting. Thanks for the link. I may do an article on this tomorrow. It certainly looks like they are trying very hard to shift traffic onto the 4G network.

    • I got my Bigpond 4G stick pretty much the day it was released to avoid Next G congestion in the Parramatta CBD. Telstra pretty much gave me the device for free, by cancelling my existing contract and signing up for a new one, made the device $0, and then they waived the cancellation fee. Since moved where I only get HSPA+ DC. Telstra can’t rollout their 4G network fast enough. With 100,000 4G sticks in circulation the , I presume the problem for Telstra is now mobile phones, and the problem is going to be exacerbated by the iPhones which won’t be compatible with an Australian 4G network for years.

  18. Yep it’s definitely dying in Brisbane too… I would say very much on par with Optus these days – although still has to have the edge in reliability

  19. Started happening in the NT as well on 8/3/12. Was this not the same day as Apple released their IOS 5.1? Any how I rang their overseas technical support often and they did not know what they were doing and have been sent a new Ultimate Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi that is not needed now. Seeing there was no gain in their overseas support and I install remote wireless services for Telstra I contacted their Australian support, the one I use, and was told the service was down Australia wide. But I notice it picked up on Monday. Not good enough though and no 4G up this way for a while.

  20. In the last 2-3 weeks my Telstra Mobile broadband has often slowed down to dialup speeds in the evenings. Location is around 12km north of Adelaide CBD.

  21. Hobart CBD is suffering the same issues right now. Terrible in the CBD but ok outside, full bars or not.

  22. OMG, I thought it was just me. Normally getting 6 Mbps, then it suddenly drops to 0.5 Mbps and 0.2 Mbps for about 2 days straight. Then last night it was super fast, and I downloaded a 1 GB file in 1/2 an hour.

  23. I’ve noticed these issues myself in Sydney CBD (cnr George and Bridge Streets) for the last few months, as has a colleague of mine. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially after moving off Vodafone because they were having the exact same issues.

  24. I recently experienced this first-hand when I went to a major office building on Bourke Street in the Melbourne CBD, sat down to have a coffee and do some work on my Next-G service. Dongle connected fine but there was basically zero data flowing – I was watching the download meter tick over at what looked to be like 2-3kbps, tops. Totally unusable and it wasted hours of my day that I had counted on to be productive.

    Worse still: in many areas I cannot even check email. The phone tries, of course, but keeps coming back with the message that my gMail password is incorrect. You know, even though it’s not. Exact same configuration works fine on WiFi and sporadically on Telstra in other places.

    Totally unacceptable IMHO. I know there is such thing as wireless congestion but the whole reason any of us went to Telstra was to have a more predictable wireless experience.

  25. I also experience this problem on the Epping to Chatswood rail line. Full 3G reception, but no data until you come out of the tunnel at Chatswood.

  26. I’ve been having the same problem for weeks in Ballarat, Victoria. It started off in peak periods but now I regularly can’t download emails or surf the web on my iPhone despite full reception.

    Do you think they’ll solve the problem or just hold out until people start converting to 4G handsets and dongles?

  27. Agree with alex. Bad on the chatswood epping line and north syd, which was why I dumped three, and now same but twice as expensive.

    my wife was given a telstra modem for work when offsite. An angry lawyer who takes it out on me rather than work telstra :(

  28. We’ve had it in Adelaide too. I travel around here a lot for work and have had the same problem in the south on a Sunday afternoon, to being in the city on Rundle Street mid Wednesday morning, and home on a weeknight. It takes it’s time to load or is just slow and not loading at all, but full signal bars. A few of us complained on twitter and Telstra told us to ring faults. The next morning, 3G data was broken for a couple of hours – not sure if they were fixing it, or “pulled a cable out”

  29. This is why I left Telstra about 6 months ago for my mobile and moved to Optus. It’s been perfect. 5M downloads in Town Hall in peak hour, it works great in the tunnel from Chatswood to MacPark and was worked the whole way on the drive up to the Gold Coast last year.

  30. It has gotten worse at st leonards as well.
    To the point now where i don’t even bother with the wireless.
    Though i was with 3 before (don’t laugh) it has gotten as bad as it was with 3.
    Sadly their helpdesk just wanted me to replace the phone. but it’s happening on my wifes iphone 4gs as well.

  31. Instead of getting the cheap Optus smartphone just get a Telstra 4G dongle for your MacBook. I got the pre-paid one a week ago, averages over 15mbps down and 10 up. No drop outs no congestion. I just hope they expand the coverage foot print quickly.

  32. We live in Maitland, NSW and have used a fixed Next G solution from Telstra for the last 12 months, as we can’t get ADSL, and the performance has noticeably dropped over that period. I have a dedicated antenna pointing at the tower but it doesn’t make much difference. It is almost impossible to use during the day while the city is full of workers (there is are couple of large government offices between us and the tower), and it is flaky all the way up to 8pm most days. We moved from a Virgin (Optus) mobile broadband solution after it became incredibly slow, and now Telstra seems to be heading the same way, a victim of its own success. I am just praying for the NBN to be rolled out past our door sometime soon (unfortunately though not in the next 12 months it looks like).

  33. i’ve been on voda for the last 18 months and went though the vodafail period – was considering switching to telstra but after the voda 850 upgrade i can actually use my iphone in CBD area’s at most times with reasonable speeds – although it is slower during the evenings it’s still very useable! crazy that it seems voda is running faster than telstra right now!

  34. Just thought I would add, make sure you turn off and on your iPhone, as I have it in the past (as recently as this morning) my phone not connecting/downloading on Next G. Turning off and on fixed the issue.

  35. 3G in Adelaide has been unusable in peak periods for months now, and I’ve noticed this problem spreading to many metro areas as well.
    Currently in Adelaide, Optus and Vodafone seem to be a better bet for a reliable service!

  36. I’ve been testing Telstra’s mobile network recently and found it generally excess (though I was in the Sydney CBD on the weekend, not working day).

    But the interesting twist to this story is that I’ve noticed Optus’ network to have suddenly become substantially better than it was before, improved just in the last week. Though it’s still worse than Telstra (aside from the Telstra CBD problems reported in this article).

  37. Can confirm the same situation in little old Hobart. I use to get a average of 8mbps down and up when first buying my iPhone 4 around 18 months ago. Now I’m happy if d/l peaks at 2mbps. Usually download speed is less than a megabit in town and around 1.5 at home.

    I’ve also noticed more dropped calls even when having full bars, so I assume this is related to network congestion as well.

  38. Yes! Drew I really noticed today how much better Optus has gotten in the last few days. It’s been pretty good but it has jumped up to excellent on the ‘need my data in the CBD o-meter” all of a sudden

  39. No better in Bendigo – Telstra here slows to a crawl most days. The centre of town hasn’t got enough coverage. I’ve had to turn off 3G to at least get the weather etc to load, let alone email!

  40. I wonder if it’s a deliberate ploy by Telstra to entice people overto the 4g network? ie. What is their incentive to fix the 3g problems if it’s going to convince customers to buy a new handset or start a new plan on the 4g network?

  41. I wonder if it’s a deliberate ploy by Telstra to entice people over to the 4g network? ie. What is their incentive to fix the 3g problems if it’s going to convince customers to buy a new handset or start a new plan on the 4g network?

  42. nathan
    Posted 16/03/2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    ” I wonder if it’s a deliberate ploy by Telstra to entice people over to the 4g network? ie. What is their incentive to fix the 3g problems if it’s going to convince customers to buy a new handset or start a new plan on the ”

    -+1 ; Springs to mind , lets pull this folder out ,like they do with adsl ,except its happening with the 3g
    in regional areas where 4g LTE isnt available and wont be for a while ….. stalling lost packets
    etc ,i think they need to look into it ,as congestion is one reason but it appears that all traffic is
    moving through the great filter of AU,which may be gagging on the congestion also ….fix it Mr T .

  43. Hello to all the Telstra/ isheep that posted above..
    Just goes to show that even a premium network can’t cope if you don’t have the wireless bandwidth to support a country full of customers.

  44. Telstra/Voda recently rejigged their 2100 freq sharing arrangement.

    So it could be a side effect of that..

  45. Collins street Melbourne No go for most of the working day
    And in Bendigo took 40 Mins to get a 200k PDF

  46. Friends Galaxy2 on Vodafone seems to work a lot faster than my iPhones on Optus & Telstra on Swanson st.

    NextG mobile broadband had let me down a few times at Crown casino food court area. I bought a 4G modem, it is lightning fast (20mbs). Hope that last.

  47. I can’t even get a decent connection in my office, and that’s after I had a group of Telstra slaves build a mobile tower right on my desk.

  48. if you do not have a internet connection with telstra, optus and vodafone all at once i don’t know what you are doing. at times of the day, all the networks will be at 0 kbps for hours on end now. you need to have a connection with all 3 at all times to have any hope of having wireless internet.

  49. I live in the heart of Melbourne and I had this problem 12 months ago. The “ULTIMATE” device was running at 200kbps MAX, which is not even one-fifth of it’s minimum advertised speed (1.1 to 20 mbps). I was furious but Telstra didn’t care.

    I was with Vodafone for 18 months before Telstra which was significantly worse.

    I run a small business and it’s extremely hard to do so with a slow connection.

    When I complained to the companies themselves and the TIO, noone really cared. Eventually they offered a VERY small refund after a LONG time on the phone explaining things to MANY staff.

    I was that upset that I called both the ACMA and the ACCC. The ACMA vowed to look into it. The ACCC told me bluntly: “write to your local member”.

    I really hope that somehow we, Australia, can fix this situation so that future generations of young business people (and residential users as well) won’t have this problem.

  50. I can’t wait for reasonably priced, fast and available fixed connections to take some of the bandwidth load by enticing some static users onto it due to speed, reliability, etc.

    A year ago, Telstra 3G would generally achieve 8mbps down in my area on the outskirts of Perth which far outstripped many of the fixed line connections (some are ADSL1 on a rim). Now it has dropped to about 2mbps.

    I am sure some current 3G users, who probably signed up due to faster speeds or not having access to DSL, would be happy to use a fixed connection if it didn’t cost too much, was fast and available to them. This would free up some of the wireless capacity for those who really needed it for the mobility.

  51. Switching to Telstra was the worst decision I’ve made. I work 100 meters from Flinders Street station in Melb CBD and can’t get data during the day. The highest ping I’ve recorded is 7000ms, with the average being 500-1000ms.

    Speeds tend to be 0… maxing at about 0.7mb/s and averaging 0.2mb/s.

    How can Telstra claim they reach 97% of the population when they can’t deliver data to the 10m+ that live in capital cities?

  52. I logged two coverage issues today on the Telstra website. I notice in the six minute gap between my two reports, five other coverage complaints were also logged based on the job number.

    Pretty much Telstra are getting complaints at about 1 per minute about coverage (obviously that’d die back during the am hours – but i imagine it’d hot up during business hours). 1 PER MINUTE!

  53. I work in Melbourne CBD on Queen street.

    I may as well switch my iPhone off when I get to work….. DATA use in non existent in my building. I can’t send or receive MMS messages either, and they simply time out.

    I have really regretted changing over from OPTUS.

    Telstra is unusable from 8 to 6, Monday to Friday…. and those are just the times I can verify.

  54. Not just the capital cities. Stanthorpe during business hours is pathetic, – as are some other regional towns.

  55. OMG I wish I had have read this article before I signed a contract with Telstra last week!! When I was signing up, I explained to the sales girl that the primary purpose of my leaving Three Mobile and joining Telstra was to be able to speak with my husband in America each day, through what the sales girl said would be a much faster internet connection both in my home suburb of Greensborough and in the Melbourne CBD where I work. Since signing up last week, I was SHOCKED to find that during the middle of the day in the CBD, not only is the connection speed too slow to make Skype calls, my internet connection DROPS OUT every minute or so, ending our calls constantly, and sometimes doesn’t reconnect to the internet for up to 15 minutes at a time!!! It is a disastrous situation, and completely ridiculous that a company like Telstra can still sign up new customers telling them that their internet speeds are fast when they are clearly not! I’ve spoken to level 1, 2 and 3 support at Telstra, and put an official complaint through,and they have told me I need to wait 5 TO 10 WORKING DAYS (i.e. 2 whole weeks) before they can resolve the problem. And as I’ve tried to explain to them, I don’t believe they can fix the problem, as per the issues discussed in this article! Their product is CLEARLY not fit for purpose. They said they may be able to cancel my contract at the end of that time frame, though I’m calling the telecommunications ombudsman as soon as they re-open on Tuesday (the only reason I didn’t report them on Friday is because the ombudsman was shut). Though Telstra may well force me to pay the $2100 fee to break the contract. Unbelievable!!!

    In short, DO NOT JOIN TELSTRA if you EVER need a reliable 3G network connection!!

    Thank you to the author of this article too – it’s good to know I’m not alone.

    • I feel your pain. I switched from Virgin (Optus network) to Telstra when the iPhone 4 came out. They really were excellent in Hobart back then, but nearly two years on and Telstra’s network performance has dropped to an all time low. Particularly frustrating given I often use my iPhone 4 tethered to my iPad or laptop when away from home. Lately that has been futile.

      Over the past month I’ve been unable to access data at all, in Sandy Bay (5 min drive to Hobart CBD) and also within Hobart CBD itself. Occasionally I might get an email through if I’m lucky, but lately it’s been timing out going nowhere. Can’t even perform basic speed tests.

      I lodged my second complaint with Telstra nearly two weeks ago and was told I’d be contacted within 4 business days. Still haven’t heard a thing.

      Telstra’s Next G network has become decidedly “Last G”. I guess they are more interested in pumping money into their fledgling 4G network now, rather than upgrade their 3G network to acceptable standards.

      Who wants to set up a TelstraFail website? :)

  56. I live in rural Queensland, about 6 hours weat of Brisbane. Rely exclusively on internet and mobile to run the business (mobile for communication, internet for account payments).They are the only option as I am located outside the nearest town (about 20 km). No ADSL. Have been using Next G wireless for internet for about two years now. Never good but good enough. The last three months have been disgusting. Some days no issues. Other days internet won’t work at all and mobile phones will not work. Shows a ‘network busy’ sign on the mobiles.

    Rang Telstra and they said they could do nothing because I am in a black spot. Fair enough but that still doesn’t explain the huge drop in network over the last 3 months. I already have to have a yagi aerial just to get signal.The problem is the network!!

    Telstra says there is nothing they can do about it and network services are ‘no different than normal’.

    So bad I could not even process wages for my workers on time this week because I couldn’t stay on the internet long enough to do the internet banking. Yea that bad. Sometimes takes up to half an hour for Google search page to load.

    Its BULLS$#T!!! And completely unpractable to use let alone run a business.

    • Man that is shitty situation. They are truly pathetic aren’t they? I’ve lodged two complaints with Telstra about no data/network congestion over the last month. Constant time outs and on the rare occasions when it actually works, I now get download speeds no greater than 0.5mbps.

      Both of the complaints I lodged were promised to be investigated, but I didn’t even receive a call back to ask further questions or attempt to help. Both times I simply received an email from tech support saying “there is no detected problem in your area. This ticket is now closed”.

      I switched to Telstra specifically to get good coverage and service. Coverage is certainly better than Optus in Tasmania, and at first network performance was brilliant (usually around 6mbps but it would often peak at 8mbps) but two years later and data with Telstra is now worse than what I used to get on my old iPhone 3G with Optus (on a plan half the price).

      I’ll definitely be changing carriers if they don’t do something about their pathetic 3G network before my contract is up.

  57. Not just 3g.So disappointing . Brand new contract . Sydney inner east dead. No 4g access on mothers day. Told it maybe 48 hrs. Well done telstra.l! And customer torture line is somerhing to experience with a sense of humour.

  58. We live in Toowoomba. I agree with comments on congestion completely. From 4pm during the week till 10pm we can barely open Googles home page. Essentially no connectivity or internet on 3G. Nearly all day and night on Weekends. Always have 4-5 bars. Telstra has been rung by me almost daily for 2 months. Every time I have to explain form scratch and get told the same crap, eventually. “We have investigated your problem at tier two or even tier 3 and the problem is congestion in your area, we have logged a job to rectify this i the nxt 3-6 months” Telstra did give me a free antenna to boost my 5 bars but it changed nothing-of course…
    Really running out of patience and the only option is to switch to 4G. I wonder whether this is going to be a similar world of pain. “Watching paint dry” is more stimulating! The help line people are soo friendly and obliging and tick all the boxes in sincerity but leave you bewildered when they can obviously only give the usual diatribe that fixes nothing. Telstra profit margins go gangbusters whilst its name and future loom very rocky if this continues… Bring on the NBN

  59. Well. 2 days in a row I have full bars and no data, with timeouts or super slow speeds on the Telstra 3G network.

    I use a USB ultimate modem. I work in Sydney cbd. It uses to be super fast but not anymore.

    Funny this is sitting right next to my laptop on my iPhone 4s I get full 3G coverage and fast data. WTF?

    Sort this out Telstra before your label the next vodafail. Or should be telstrafail…..

  60. Well. 2 days in a row I have full bars and no data, with timeouts or super slow speeds on the Telstra 3G network.

    I use a USB ultimate modem. I work in Sydney cbd. It uses to be super fast but not anymore.

    Funny this is sitting right next to my laptop on my iPhone 4s I get full 3G coverage and fast data.

    Sort this out Telstra before your label the next vodafail. Or should be telstrafail…..

    • John,

      I think I’m stating the obvious here but anyway…

      Assuming your iPhone4s is also with Telstra (you don’t specifically say who it’s with), and if the iPhone’s 3G data connection works but the USB Ultimate modem doesn’t, it is (very) likely that there is some sort of hardware, software or configuration problem with the USB modem rather than an issue with Telstra’s 3G network.

      That’s not to say of course that there aren’t issues with Telstra’s network, although Adelaide seems to have improved in the last month or so.

  61. Hi Graham,

    Sorry, yes my iPhone 4s is with Telstra.

    As for the problem possibly being hardware, software or configuration, I went to lunch and left my connection active using the 3g usb ultimate and low and behold when I came back to my desk I could access the internet nice and fast through the 3g connection.

    And I didn’t touch anything!!

    So, long may the fast speeds last on my internet connection!!!

    I’m not convinced that the Telstra 3g network is going to get better any time soon….

  62. I live at Victor Harbor – 70 kms south of Adelaide. I use pre-paid Mobile Broadband – Vodaphone on my phone – it never shows anything but the smallest bar on the meter. It works, but often have to go outside house (or move around) When I bought my laptop (September 2010) I used Optus pre-paid – max download speed ever recorded was 0.12mbs! – around December 2010 it degenerated to 0.003mbs (no kidding!)– so I ditched it! I then bought Telstra pre-paid (turbo modem dongle) – supposed to deliver minimum 0.5mbs download speed – this turned out to be BS – mostly in the 0.3+mbs – or lower – however, it is the only pre-paid service to provide consistent delivery in my area. Next door neighbours had Vodaphone pre-paid – they could not even read their emails most of time! I envy the speeds many of you city slickers get – have thought about Telstra’s 4G pre-paid but no one can tell me if I’ll get better reception! Useless complaining to Telstra – they refer you to their Call Centre (in Philippines)

  63. I’m in Bendigo victoria, in the town centre and built up areas, i have literally a few seconds of coverage – bearly enough to sent/receive an email. Going into airport mode for a minute the back helps for a few moments again but data coverage always dies. GSM voice/sms is fine tho – only for texts, not for mms. Fails literally every time. The moment i drive to a rural area – well away from the township coverage (incidentally *ANY* town coverage) i have amazing coverage – which was the reason i needed telstra in the first place. Bendigo, everywhere in Melbourne, the entire train line from bendigo to melb (which used to have perfect coverage) data coverage has just gone to crap. Its either dialup speed or nothing at all. I’ll be switching back to optus on my contract expiration.

  64. I’ve been using my iPhone 4 & iPad 2 (both on Telstra) most days in my office in the Sydney CDB since I’ve had them (2 year contract on the iPhone expires in Nov) and the last six or so months have been getting progressively worse. According to, download speeds of between nothing and 26k are quite normal most days.

    Mornings are not so bad, but after lunch, forget it if you are with Telstra.

    And the North Shore train line is even worse – morning peak on my way to work I get ~500K download, afternoon peak if I get 10k I’m buying a lottery ticket!!!

    As someone who was recommending Telstra, I’m now recommemnding people stay away.

  65. So its been 2 years and Telstra have still not pulled their finger out.

    Forget about 4G, its just as bad in Melbourne’s CBD.

    I do not recommend Telstra to anyone. Avoid and boycott because they don’t listen to their customers.

  66. Well it’s late 2012 and this problem is still rife and widespread. Iam here in Perth and have this problem every single day on my iPhone 4S. It is an absolute joke! Not happy!

  67. Well it’s late 2012 and this problem is still rife and widespread. Iam here in Perth and have this problem every single day on my iPhone 4S. It is an absolute joke! Not happy! My comment here even keeps failing!

  68. Hi this problem also occurs during 7:30-10pm in Mount Isa. I guess it is peak hour for usage in the town of 20,000. The Internet will become terribly slow ir not work at all with full reception. I am now in the Lockyer valley in a rural area and during 1-3pm and 730-9pm I also appear to be having issues. In this present location the Internet seems to be coming in waves works for 5 minutes off for 5.

  69. At Paynesville / Raymond Island (Vic, 3880) the 3G data service is basically unuseable from Xmas to just about now as holidaymakers start to thin out. The same problem occurs at Easter. We have no fixed line phone there and rely on the mobile service for calls and data.
    4G is now available having been switched on at Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance and fortunately my new HTC Velocity can pick it up if I force it to LTE only since we are on the edge of reception. My wife’s 3G phone is just useless for data over the two weeks.
    At work in Sale (Vic, 3850, 3G only) the service is almost useless from 3.30pm – must be when kids get home from school and hit the network. I would use Optus but in general their coverage is so woeful out of town here that we are somewhat tied to Telstra. So come on Telstra, improve your service!

  70. I’m in Toogoom Qld, like clock work my 3G goes from lightning fast from mid night to 6am then progressivly slows to non existant from 9am to 6pm then from 6pm to Midnight it picks up a bit but at most times you could compare it to a dial up connection….. if you are lucky!

    4G apprantly doesn’t work out here and as a result uses the #g network so upgrade to 4g is pointless for me. to say the least I am totally pissed off and constantly ask what exactly am I paying for except extreme frustration!.

  71. Funny how all the people from Vodafone have now moved to Telstra……So Vodafone’s networks is the fastest I have experienced in a long time (I used to have Optus up until a few weeks ago and I used to get 3G/H alternating on my smartphone) and very slow speeds….moved to Vodafone and its always HSDPA (which is way faster). The difference is huge. Optus on the 1st of July 2013 tested using speed …..Speed 333kbps and 28kbps uploads. Vodafone: 5959kbps and 1175kbps uploads…THIS IS ON THE SAME 3G ONLY DEVICE!

  72. It is not only the CBD that is being affected but the suburbs, my connections have been deteriorating since May 2011 and as a result of upgrades I live in a couple of streets that are not supported at all if the coverage map is correct and now they recommended antenna be installed when in the home on the iPhone, it does defeat the purpose of having a mobile phone if you have to attached an antenna to it when in your home …

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