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TRANSCRIPT

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman 4 mins read

 

31 May 2024

TRANSCRIPT

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Becc Chave.

ABC Radio SA South East

 

Subject: 3G switch-off warning for small business

 

Becc Chave

Australia's 3G networks are closing down. You still got a bit of time before this does start impacting you, but it is important that Australians know if they will be impacted. If you've received notice from your service provider to upgrade your device, don't put off taking action. That's the message coming from the AMTA and the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman. Bruce Billson is the Ombudsman. Bruce, good morning. Thanks for your time on the program.

Bruce Billson

Awesome to be with you and your listeners.

Becc Chave

Do you think businesses have been given enough time to prepare for this?

Bruce Billson

It's been a slow train coming, this one, but I suppose it's only when you see the headlight you think, this is getting closer. I think it's been four or five years in the making. It's not been any surprise that the 3G network is coming to an end and I think for people with their handheld phone devices and the like, they'll been pretty alert to it.

What I’m concerned about, though, is there's an awful lot of technology kit equipment, used in everyday small, family and farming businesses that's actually powered by 3G. And these are the sorts of things you probably don't think about what the technology for the wireless link is. You're thinking more about what the piece of kit actually does. And so it can actually slip past you that when the 3G network shut off, you might find your, you know, old style EFTPOS machine no longer working, security cameras, you know, some of the asset tracking tools, particularly for our farming communities, the water and environmental monitoring technology and those micro-climate technologies. Many of those operate on a wireless operating system and a significant number have 3G as the back end of those systems.

So, I'm really saying to people, don't be a casualty of the 3G shut-off, check your device functionality, talk to the suppliers, talk with the telcos, and make sure you're aware of what beyond your phone handset may be affected by the planned shutdown

Becc Chave

Is this putting on additional costs to business owners or landowners who have to navigate this change? We had a text through earlier this morning, Bruce, from Sharon and she said, I have to replace my Telstra repeater and antenna because of the 3G network shutting down. This system costs me $1,700. The new system is costing me $2,900 just to get reasonable, consistent service.

Bruce Billson

The answer is yes. Just when margins are being squeezed in small, family and farming businesses, for many, this will be another unwelcome expense. 3G - I won't bore you listeners with all the technical jargon around it - but 3G has got a longer reach. The thickness of the pipe in terms of the volume of data it carries is thinner than 4G and 5G, but it stretches further. So, in rural and regional and remote areas, 3G has sort of been, you know, appreciated for the long range.

So, in some cases, even when you're switching over to 4G, you might find that that new signal doesn't reach as far. That can be an issue. And as your texter has highlighted, a lot of on property telephony and Wi-Fi extensions and the like may well be using 3G.

But there's a lot of less obvious things too. Let's talk about vending machines. You know they remotely advise the people that own them that the stock levels are down and away you go. Some of the card payment tap-on things you see car parks, they've got 3G behind them as well. I saw reports that $500, $600, possibly more, to replace those payment tap-and-go systems, yet the things that they're attached to might only generate $1,000 of profit a year. And you can see what a hit that will be.

So, this is going to cost some people money. It is probably an unwelcome expense. It has been foreshadowed for a long time, but we're now getting to crunch point, and I'm just concerned people might find vital bits of their kit and technology they use in their everyday small, family and farming business is just not functioning because the 3G networks won't be available.

Becc Chave

Is this something you've been receiving calls about, or at least perhaps concerns that there hasn't been enough guidance through this.

Bruce Billson

We have had contact from a number of industry associations. I mean, some are very specific. I don't know how many surveyors might be in your listening audience, but they've got a little piece of kit called a total station. It maps out property boundaries and undulations and all that. Well, many of those pieces of kit use 3G as their communication method and that's been raised with us, along with some in the farming community around those remote distance monitoring technologies that are pretty common on larger farming properties, that a number of those will be in strife.

As well as some concerns about the telephony use itself. I touched earlier on the reach of 3G. For some people emergency call capability and the like is assisted by the longer reach of the signal on 3G, whereas the more sophisticated, able to carry more data signals that you get with 4G and 5G might not reach as far. And that's left some people are a little vulnerable.

That’s where it’s come up and I just thought the best thing I can do is almost as a community service notification Becc, if I could call it that, be aware that it's coming. Optus is looking to switch theirs off on the 1st of September. Telstra was going to go a bit earlier, but they've now decided to delay that until 31st of August. So, we're not too far away. And for those on TPG and Vodafone networks, their networks are already shut down. So, it's coming.

Becc Chave

A good message to get prepared. Bruce, thank you very much for your time on the program this morning.

Bruce Billson

Take care, Becc.

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