A challenge for Telstra: Show us your best


blog Yesterday a lot of people complained that our photo gallery of the “worst of the worst” of Telstra’s copper network didn’t fairly represent the strength and quality of the network as a whole. So today, we’re challenging Telstra to show us its best.

To say that we received a lot of criticism regarding yesterday’s publication of a controversial photo gallery of the “worst of the worst” of Telstra’s network is something of an understatement.

On Twitter, Campbell Simpson, a fellow technology journalist who edits IDG’s Good Gear Guide site, made it plain what he thought of Delimiter’s efforts. “I must have missed the part in that photo gallery where you talked about the 98.2% of [Telstra customer service guarantee] services without faults for March 2012,” he said. “So that’s 98.2% of services with no faults or urban faults fixed within 24hrs of reporting. The copper, by and large, works. Your crowd-sourced ‘worst of the worst’ photos are not “realistic” of the wider infrastructure. That’s all. Accept it.”

Others took to Delimiter’s comments section to make their views known. “Most of the pics you posted are decommissioned infrastructure,” wrote the aptly named Dude in Telco. “So youve picked out a few pictures out of MILLIONS of bits of network in the ground ALL ACROSS AUSTRALIA from the big city to the most remote that I’m sure you would never even want to go to, and conclude that Telstra is neglient and the network is in shambles… Worst still you post a series of what looks like to be mostly decomissioned equipment and not all identifiable as being Telstra, or the work of Telstra, or the customer.”

“For a system that has had to withstand decades of use, splitting, repairs and cutbacks, this is in good shape,” wrote another commenter, named ‘meh’. “It’s clear that Renai, and indeed many of the outraged commenters here, have never worked with data cabling, let alone cabling outside datacentres.”

Now, technically we never claimed that these photos were representative of Telstra’s broader network; in fact, we specifically labelled them “worst of the worst” and that these examples of poorly maintained infrastructure were only found in some areas.

However, underlying the criticism is a valid point: By and large, Telstra’s copper network is maintained fairly well. It works, after all, for the overwhelming majority of Australians, and most people are able to get a fairly decent broadband connection over it.

So to address this criticism, we’ve invited Telstra to submit photos of some of the best examples of well-maintained infrastructure in its network. We want to see pristine, well-maintained, properly functioning areas of its copper network. Clean exchanges, well-maintained ducts, new network equipment with fancy blinking lights and so on. We’ll commit to publishing the same number of photos we published yesterday, giving the story the same degree of prominence, if Telstra will come to the party.

This shouldn’t be too hard a task for Telstra, given that it has publicly talked about how it regularly cleans its telephone exchanges.

We’ve also given Telstra the same deadline we gave our readers for the “worst of the worst” photo gallery: One week. In one week’s time, we hope, Telstra will supply us with a bunch of photos of spick and span copper network infrastructure to do the nation proud. We look forward to this with great anticipation.


  1. Didn’t see the article with the photo’s, I worked as a telstra contractor for years so I’m well acquainted with its state. But people actually tryed to argue its in a well maintained state?? What a joke, the amount of joint remakes I have done where the joint is beyond f@&ked and had been plastered with Telstra “pride” tags, cleaned and plastered again. To this day I have no doubt there are still gel affected joints in use. How about instead of looking at the best or worst, chose a few random streets in every city, open and photo every pit (two middle fingers make a good pit key if you don’t have one) or manhole on it, any leadins, that will be plenty ugly.

    • Yeah, a random survey would provide a better view of the “actual” state of the network. Probably a little more work for Delimiter to organize that, though :-)

      • Well, if he’s anywhere near an NBN rollout, he should stalk the contractors as they do the ‘roping and rodding’ part of the network assessment.

        He’ll see plenty of opened pits, and hear plenty of comments.

        There you go Renai, an excuse to get some rays ‘for research’.

    • Indeed, my experience is that the copper network is very poorly maintained in some areas. Doing a small amount of IT support in one particular suburb, it is almost a weekly occurrence for someone to call me and say their having problems with the ADSL line.

      As for fault resolution within 24 hours… bollocks. 24 hours from when they submit the final work order, maybe, but definitely not 24 hours from when the fault occurred, or even from when it was first reported by the customer. Often it takes weeks and multiple calls for a line fault to be acknowledged and fixed, with many outright lies from CSRs stating “there is nothing wrong with the line”.

  2. Perhaps ask Telstra to comment on how many CNI (customer network improvements) jobs are sitting in the queue currently.

    That would give a much better idea of the current state of the network.

      • Renai.
        I don’t need to be anonymous to tell you this much.
        When i worked at Telstra a few years ago. oing Wholesale ADSL faults.

        Work that hit the CNI file was pretty much DOA.
        Reading through those jobs to give people “updates” was like checking toe tags in a morgue.

      • Also. With regard to comments about the 98.2% ‘non faulty’
        I worked with Telstra’s systems so unless they changed this in the last few years. (which they wont, its just not feasible)

        They do not proactively monitor the ‘last mile’ of copper for anything other than i would imagine the less than 50% of Business customers paying for remote ADSL links to be monitored actively.

        Cannot emphasize this enough. Its not that the network ‘isnt faulty’.
        If I still had access to my testing tools, I could run 1000 phone lines at random and I would expect more than 25% would fail one of the tests that requires someone to go out and fix it.
        Likely another 5% would pass but show signs of degradation or age that will likely lead to failures in the next few years.
        You can get a lot out of a “broken” copper pair.
        Doing so is Telstra standard policy because it, to use a business term, ‘Maximizes ROI”.

    • Telstra have had more than two decades to master the spin on reporting of CSG, CNI, Complaints etc … They just about claim for Mass Service Disruptions if two customers sneeze at the same time…

      Just go for a drive and see how many yellow frames you can find mate. Sometimes they are obscured by the 6ft tall grass growing in and around them or the animal nesting materials because they’ve been there 10 years….

      Linee’s reckon they make great “open air high-rise pits” if you’ve got some haul rope to tie the joint to them with…

      The temporary two pairs run along the ground or hung up in tree’s can be a little harder to see… double points if you notice them !

      As for exchanges and MDF’s … all the photo’s I’ve seen to date are very typical and in some cases, neater than most….. at least 30-40% will be “dead jumpers”…. no one pulls dead jumpers out anymore, not when they’re paying a contractor an ever lowing rate to run a new one that might take 5 minutes …. tracing and pulling the dead one could take 15…. so it’s cut short and tucked back into the mound.

  3. Customer Service Guarantee? That doesn’t ever seem to apply! Always an exemption, usually for some far off natrual disaste which often amounted to a bit of rain.

  4. My Street alone has 25-30 CNI Cases. 100m down from my place there is a 100 pair cable that keeps getting water logged that needs to be dug up and replaced. We are still literally waiting. It has gotten that bad that some services have been aerially run to provide a barely acceptable level of service.

  5. “So that’s 98.2% of services with no faults or urban faults fixed within 24hrs of reporting”

    So that’s 1.8% of services with faults lasting more than 24 hours, in a single month. Seems rather high.

    • I must have been really unlucky to end up in that 1.8% twice. One week with no phone service and internet at half speed the first time then for three days the second time.

  6. I have to admit while I do not think it is appropriate to use your previous article as a claim that Telstra are negligent I fail to see how anything in that article is incorrect.

    People will always make their own conclusions, many took it to mean that the network was being unfairly attacked, fair enough.

    What I saw the article as showing is that in an unknown amount of cases the copper may need to be extensively repaired or relayed to meet minimum standards to run a competing FTTN network, I see this as a point that strengthens an already solid case for going FTTH > FTTN.

    Certainly the NBN has its problems, but finally it is a step in the right direction from sucessive terms of government doing nothing to make sure the Australian consumer ccan get a decent service.

  7. I thought the focus on poor cabling was more representative of the state of the “last mile”, rather than the state of the overall copper network itself. I’m sure it would be easy to find examples of clean, tidy wiring and well maintained exchanges, but that doesn’t change the fact that a significant portion of people can’t get decent speeds because of the state of the poor wiring from the exchange to their house.

    If anything the photos provide a solid reason to do away with the alternative option of FTTN. Something the coalition talks about, but have never committed to in any type of serious broadband policy.What’s the point of wiring up the country with fibre if you’re still connected by crappy copper at the other end?

  8. As I said in another thread, our Telstra line breaks down at least once a year, every year. It’s always a problem at the local exchange, not at my dwelling. I’ve chatted with the very friendly engineers. They all say the same thing. The infrastructure local to us is struggling along and needs a root and branch modernization, but Telstra wont ok a replacement part until the failing one actually fails.
    I actually think Telstra are ok.
    I think the point of the Delimiter copper network criticisms is to highlight the Turnbull folly of connecting hi-tech fibre to it.

  9. I think you are incorrect in looking at it from a best / worst comparison. The best network is one that is uniform. A grey box in the street should look the same as every other grey box, so too the work inside it. you dont need to polish it, only sales and marketing want that sort of stuff. The same thing as boasting 100mbps blazing fast fibre and selectively showing nicely built new boxes, given that NBN will use the same shoddy contractors as telstra, it will a got to crap in the same way and the work equally poor.

  10. As someone who worked in Telstra Engineering (and Telecom Australia) for many many years, I can tell you that the External Plant isn’t in very good condition and isn’t and hasn’t been maintained very well. Others who know what I know would agree with these statements. I’m not going to go into the reasons for this because they are many and varied, but your photos do paint a picture of the condition of a lot of the network. Yes in new areas the infrastructure “looks” good for a while but it soon falls into disrepair quickly. Anyone could provide “evidence” such as photos to support an argument either way. Big deal! Cooper, electricity and moisture together form the bases for this decay of the network. Moisture gets into the copper cables (both Plastic covered, plastic insulated Distribution Cables as well as Lead/Moisture Barrier covered paper insulated Mains Cable etc.) at joints and in-line for many reasons including sloppy workmanship, poor equipment design, flawed procedures and practices, pests (ants/termites etc.) environmental condition and mechanical damage. They all end in the same result….Faults!

    Those who have an agenda will cry foul of what I’m saying. I have no agenda just years of experience in Telstra & Telecom Australia. I don’t care if you believe what I’m saying or not because the facts are the facts regardless of the agenda or political slant that some of you have.

    Before shooting your mouth off about something you know nothing about, get your fact straight. Do a bit of research first. Cooper, Electricity and Moisture are a bad combination. It is very difficult to keep moisture out of the joints and cables in any cooper telephone network regardless of the techniques, and procedures used. Think about the fact that the air itself contains moisture and as the temperature drops at night etc. the water vapor condense into liquid water. What do you think happens inside a joint or cable where this moisture forms?

    I’m not going to connect all the dots for you. But anyone with any experience in the Telecommunications industry know all this stuff and know why a fibre network is superior to a cooper network with regard to fault tolerance, let alone the fact that fibre provides almost endless capacity. Yes fibre is still affected by such things as mechanical damage both man made and animal/insect. But it certainly doesn’t suffer from the biggest cause of faults in the cooper telephone network which is moisture ingress.

  11. Funnily enough today I visited 3 sites, in one case the Mini MDF was missing its cover and the wires were hanging out, the other one was sealed but wires hanging out and the 3rd the cover was on but inside was a dogs breakfast, not tidy at all.

    I think the Random audit has merit.

  12. It’s funny how you assume that because it’s Telstra it must be horrible and bad, you also fail to mention that any time Telstra would like to upgrade anything everyone cries about having a RIM on their nature strip.

    I have here some nice photos of the NBN if you would like?


    But I bet you it would kill you to hear that all the work was done by Telstra under contract for NBNCo, to Telstra standards.

    • Personally, I’m not blaming Telstra per se`, they are a profit driven business, and like all businesses, looking to cut corners. That is the system… appease the shareholder, at the expense of customers and employees…

      I certainly don’t agree that this is right, but I can’t blame them for playing the system.

      All I say is, if this is indicative of the state of the copper (if multiplied many times over throughout Oz) it is not sufficient to warrant FTTN and those who think it is, are kidding themselves, imo.

    • “http://i.imgur.com/bCmEZ.jpg

      Simply stunning…

      “But I bet you it would kill you to hear that all the work was done by Telstra under contract for NBNCo, to Telstra standards.”

      Oh but it sounds like it was actually to NBNco’s standards not Telstra’s. I mean that “under contract” thing must mean something right? Papers were signed making sure NBNco weren’t screwed over? Regular people where most of the problems occur have no such iron clad guarantees and it certainly shows that unless you light a fire under their ass Telstra are quite happy to do a half-assed job of it.

      • Telstra generally do a great job, a phone isn’t going to stop working because the wiring is messy. When cleaning up a mess like that you have a chance of breaking something that already works.

        In 40 years time the NBN is going to be privatised and nothing will be different, optic cables will be joined with the equivalent of a scotch lock. The cabinets will be bent open by ‘yoofs, some of the cable will probably be rotting due to de lamination because NBNco used a cheap supplier.

        Shiny and brand new don’t last forever.

    • But I bet you it would kill you to hear that all the work was done by Telstra under contract for NBNCo, to Telstra standards.

      no, it was done to the technical standards required to allow fibre optic to actually work.

      unlike copper which will kind of keep working, sort of maybe, if you’re lucky, if it is not installed or maintained correctly, fibre optic will only work if it is installed and maintained correctly.

    • Your last statement is misleading. Telstra have to date only performed the installation in the Brunswick first release site. So yes, if you live in the roughly 1km sq of Brunswick that was done first, it was done by Telstra. It was also the last of the first release sites to come online – despite Cyclone Yassi affecting the Townsville rollout.

  13. This report today just shows how skewed yesterday’s report was in that a number of instances showed pictures on non-Telstra maintained cabling (ie customer premises MDFs). Also a flood damaged roadside RIM cabinet, which implied the RIM had just been left there, not being repaired and all its connected customers left without a service without any real evidence this is what actually happened.

  14. The worst part of this report is that there are many Telstra staff and contractors, perhaps many responsible for creating the mess many of the pictures depict and expect to get work/jobs with NBN Co.

    Do we really what these people over at NBN Co to bring their poor installation and maintenances practices with them?

    Plea to NBN Co – Keep Telstra staff and their contractors away from your network, it’s too important and valuable to let some of these people near it. There is no way of knowing who the real culprits are, so do yourself a favour and treat them all the same and don’t hire or let any of them near your network. No doubt there will be other cowboys out there too trying to make a quick buck.

    • Frank, you would be aware of the levels of staff and contractor decimation in Telstra since the days of Sol and the amigos, or are you just assuming that service should be carried out to optimum levels irrespective of self imposed resourse cuts? Ever thought that the faults shown are there because the shareholders friends in the executive suites have ripped the guts out of the on street staff and the backlog cannot be addressed effectively because they don’t have the numbers to get to them?

    • I’m not sure you know what your talking about. A lot of the worst work has been done by telstra workers sure, but is that because they suck and are inherently lazy or is it because the suits setting prioritys and kpi’s know the same thing economists do. Monopoly’s are not permanent, the NBN or super magic wireless was always going to come. They knew that before they had even finished selling it. The state the network is in didn’t happen overnight, it take many years of neglect, they have been milking the asset we sold, and guess what, the monopoly they hold is about to end. Please don’t start arguing about the NBN monopoly, its not even close to the same thing

  15. “blog Yesterday a lot of people complained that our photo gallery of the “worst of the worst” of Telstra’s copper network”

    No, it was called – Worst of the worst: Photos of Australia’s copper network

    Neither in the original call for pics (Australia’s copper broadband infrastructure: The reality) or the Worst of the Worst article was Telstra mentioned by Delimiter.

    Australia’s copper network is more than Telstra’s copper network, although it is a huge part of it.

    Is it fair to challenge Telstra with some pics that are not Telstra’s responsibility?

    Level playing field and all that.

  16. Perhaps get Telstra to come to my house and explain why I’m on a small pair gain?

    The *insert bad word here* pair gain only runs dial up internet at 14.4k and I cannot get ADSL because of it.

    What a joke.

    Hurry up NBN.

    • Telstra’s only legislative responsibility is to deliver what you are getting. So what is there to explain?

      • Explains why we need an NBN, so that we don’t have, have’s and have not’s, at a private company’s whim or to suit the bottom line.

  17. You know Telstra once used steel fencing to ‘make safe’ those pits and things under repair. They switchrd to alloy because the steel ones would be in the street so long they would rust away…

  18. This is a problem of out-sourcing your companies work, or least not auditing outsourced work effectively. Why should contractors repair stuff properly when you are just going to pay them to repair the same fault over and over again. Just like call center why should a call center take the extra time to resolve a problem fully when you are paying them on number of calls cleared. Remember when you outsource work the company doing have their best interests in mind not yours and when something goes wrong it isn’t the outsources company that the client blames.

  19. I just viewed Mr Ashford’s comments here in his submission:


    I understand exactly what he is talking about. These high resistance faults (as we called them) but as he calls “high open” faults are temporarily masked by the standard robotic tests as they temporarily “breakdown” the high resistance by the voltage/current applied to them during the testing. This also can happen when you lift the handset on the telephone and the circuit is completed and 50volts applied to the entire circuit. However this isn’t always the case depending on the amount of oxidation between the conductors at a joint, or on a cross connect point such as a cabinet or pillar, or in a socket within a house etc. In pure telephoney terms these faults were and are characterised by noise heard during a telephone conversations. Like the sound of cracking bacon cooking or a scratching noise or just a crackly noise on the line. On Naked ADSL this wouldn’t be heard. The only way to test for this fault is a “loop test”. Anyway some more information is available here:


    The testing procedure that Telstra is currently using needs to change (as it once was) so loop testing is done first to detect the high resistance faults or high open faults as Mr Ashford calls them.

    • Another way to identify these is the ADSL line stats.
      You won’t catch them all, but if the up and downstream SNR are the same or very close, odds are there’s a fault like this. I always logged them as “crackling” without getting TDR’s done. They were almost always fixed and zero GNNNN closures.

  20. Here is a link to the documents that Mr Ashton has posted. Of most interest is “Letter to ACMA – Copper Oxide Faults in the copper network” and “The effect of copper oxide on telephone and D.S.L bearers”:

    Letter to ACMA – Copper Oxide Faults in the copper network:


    Letter to Stephen Conroy:


    The effect of copper oxide on telephone and D.S.L bearers:


    LTS-2 Analogue Meter Scale and Specifications:


  21. 98.2% non-faulty, does not equal 98.2% satisfactory rating by the actual customers, the people who matter in all of this.

    In terms of uptime 98.2% is abysmal, when in the technology realm 99% or 99.whatever% is actually competed on.

    For instance some data centers will offer a 99% uptime guarantee, meaning that when you put your server into their data center they are guaranteeing you that it will be up 99% of the time, and 99% is actually not the best, let alone 98.2%.

    There is substantial competition around the amount of uptime guaranteed and if 98.2% is the best Telstra can manage I can assure you that is sub-par.

    Now people will say a data center and a phone line are 2 entirely different things so this criticism can’t posisbly apply.

    Wrong, what good is a server without access to its contents (your network) provides that very cruicial access.

    Furthermore to these points 98.2% uptime (which I think is low), is not representitive of customer satisfaction in relation to network (broadband) speeds, I think you will find most broadband users want Labors NBN.

    They may not agree with everything Labor says or does but you will find overwhealming support to continue the NBN rollout.

  22. As I mentioned on Twitter in response to Mr Simpson (and yourself) – the CSG that he refers to in pulling out the “98.2%” figure applies only to voice services. There is NO CSG STANDARD on data services.

    Maintaining a copper line to the standard required to carry voice services successfully is much, much easier than maintaining it to the level required to carry uninterrupted and optimum ADSL2+, making his use of these figures to prove a point a little disingenuous.

    Even Telstra’s CSG page clearly states that CSG does not apply to data services:


    Disappointed you failed to mention this in your article Renai.

  23. Prior privatisation you could eat your lunch off the exchange floor. Maintenance consisted of 90% of the work on the copper network. Enter Sol and friends. Their theory – run your network down to 1 percent above failure rate and fix the failures as they happened and save, save save. Well, folks here it is. And Sol and friends? – well back to the USA with their millions of course for a job well done

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