Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

Sign up for ACCAN's weekly newsletter to have these news items sent to your email address each week.

[ List view  |  Detailed view ]

Smartphone next to Christmas treeNo doubt many of us are looking forward to getting a new smartphone for Christmas. But before you rush out to purchase the latest device for a loved one or yourself, there are a few things you should consider.

While price is likely to be a key decider, there are other factors to look at. Here are our top tips to keep in mind before purchasing a new smartphone or signing up to a new phone contract during the festive season.

Mobile coverage

The P3 CommsDay Mobile Benchmark 2015 tested the three Australian mobile networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone), giving a snapshot of the mobile coverage in larger cities, smaller towns and on highways around Australia. The Benchmark is an independent test that measures the quality of phone calls, and 4G and 3G data downloads.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Man using mobile phone at airportAustralian telcos have taken action to reduce bill shock from global roaming by introducing roaming packs. But before travelling, you should consider all your options for global roaming, especially if you are on a tight budget. Check out your options for global roaming below.

Do you need to use your phone number while overseas?

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone offer their customers global roaming packs that include calls, text and data, at an extra cost. Virgin Mobile offers roaming packs that only include data. Signing up to a roaming pack can be a good option if you need to be contactable overseas on your Australian mobile number.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Seniors using laptopsDigital inclusion ensures that no one is left behind as we move towards an increasingly digital future. For Social Inclusion Week 2015, we thought we'd outline why digital inclusion is vital for all Australians.

While many of us have smartphones and access to the internet at home, there are some consumers who don't. Two issues often cited as barriers to digital inclusion are affordability and a lack of digital literacy.

Affordability divide

Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2012–13, 98 per cent of households with a household income of $120,000 or more had internet access, compared to only 57 per cent of households with a household income of less than $40,000, suggesting an 'affordability divide' when it comes to broadband.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Teenage girls using smartphonesMore and more parents are purchasing phones for their teenage children. Research from the ACMA in 2013 showed that 67 per cent of 12 to 13 year olds had a mobile phone. Mobile phones make keeping in touch with teenagers easy, but having a mobile phone also means greater responsibility for teens.

In this article we look at what parents should know before purchasing a mobile phone for their child.

Teens and parents need to be aware of the costs of a smartphone. These can be expensive especially if they exceed their monthly limits. A pre-paid plan may be a good option for a teenager because there's no risk of bill shock.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Recently ACCAN has heard reports of consumers having to replace their NBN backup batteries earlier than expected, sometimes while under warranty.

Prior to October 2014, it was mandatory to have a backup battery in an NBN box for services in fibre to the premises areas. It is now an optional feature.

Not all consumers need to have a backup battery. You only need to have one if other services are reliant on your connection, or if you have no alternative access to emergency services (e.g. via mobile services) when there is a power outage. These services include medical alarms and fixed-line telephones.

The recent reports suggest that many consumers are finding that their backup battery has needed replacing sooner than expected. ACCAN is concerned that poor quality batteries may cost consumers extra money if they keep needing to be replaced. The process of replacing a battery may be difficult for some consumers. We are concerned that some may require the assistance of a technician when replacing the battery which would also add to the costs.

Write comment (23 Comments)

The Bureau of Communications Research (BCR), a unit established last year in the Department of Communications and the Arts, was asked by the Government to consider the funding of the National Broadband Network (NBN) to regional Australia. The initial policy arrangement saw nbn funding the services, covering any losses internally from other areas of the network. The Government policy now is to distribute the cost further than the nbn network.

The BCR has produced a consultation paper presenting their preliminary findings. Below is a summary of these findings.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Teenagers using smartphonesAustralians are spending more time on their mobile phones and we're using more mobile data than ever before.

According to the ACMA Communications Report 2013-14, in the quarter ending June 2014, Australians downloaded 38,734 terabytes of data on mobile devices – a 97.3 per cent increase when compared to the same quarter a year earlier!

With the introduction of 4G, our data needs are forecasted to grow even more. Because of this, it's important to take into account how your provider counts your data and how much they charge for excess data.

Write comment (0 Comments)

The 2015 edition of the P3 CommsDay Mobile Benchmark Australia shows improved results from the three carriers tested – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Now in its second year, the benchmark compares the three network operators against each other and also against their scores last year.

ACCAN congratulates P3 and CommsDay on this important initiative because it provides consumers with independent benchmarking so they can make informed decisions. Improved consumer decision making is one of ACCAN's Policy Priorities for 2015-16.

The benchmark measures smartphone voice and data performance and is based on weeks of extensive testing around the country. The tests measure voice call quality, success rates, download and upload speeds, website access and video streaming performance.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Kids using smartphoneThe internet offers exciting opportunities and experiences for kids and teens. But for some parents it can seem like a dark forest fraught with danger.
While there are great aspects of technology, it should be remembered that the internet could potentially expose children to harmful content, cyberbullying or contact with strangers.

To coincide with Stay Smart Online Week, we're sharing our top tips for online safety for kids and teens.

How to approach cybersafety

It's more than likely that your kids are using computers or tablets regularly at home and at school. In fact a 2013 study from the ACMA found that 95 per cent of eight to 11 year olds had accessed the internet 'in the last four weeks.'

Write comment (0 Comments)

Woman holding childAfter experiencing a traumatic marriage breakdown, Michelle* fled with her children to a safe location expecting to be free of the violence they had experienced. Over the ensuing months she found herself encountering her ex-husband in all sorts of locations unexpectedly, and started to face the abuse all over again. He then moved to sending abusive text messages, so Michelle changed her number, only to start receiving them again soon after.

Unable to understand why this was happening, Michelle sought the help of an IT savvy friend, only to discover her children had tracking software on their phones and that her computer also had spyware which her ex-husband had been using to keep track of her. This is known as 'technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.'

Write comment (0 Comments)

Family using mobile devicesMobile providers are now offering sharing plans for people to share data among devices and people. Each of the telcos has different approaches and options for sharing across plans. In this article we outline the plans from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and some things to watch out for.

Before you sign up to any sharing plans we advise you to consider the usage patterns of each individual user. When looking at plans it pays to shop around and find the plan that suits each individual user.

Write comment (0 Comments)

Man watches TV wearing headphonesLast week Vision Australia and a number of people who are blind or have low vision met with MPs at an event in Canberra to demonstrate audio description and lobby for its inclusion on TV. The event was organised in partnership with Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, and was co-sponsored by Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull MP, and Shadow Minister for Communications, Jason Clare MP.

Audio description on television is a verbal description - provided during gaps in dialogue - of visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes. You can get a sense of how it works from Vision Australia's YouTube video.

Vision Australia's Tell the whole story campaign encourages the Federal Government to implement audio description on Australian television so it can be enjoyed by the 350,000 people who are blind or have low vision.

Write comment (0 Comments)