Australian Communications Authority
Review of Australia’s
Terms of reference
In conducting this review, the ACA will examine and make recommendations in relation to:
1) The role of payphones
a. The various services provided by payphones, including convenience of telephone
access in public places; access to emergency services; and provision of basic
telecommunications access to those otherwise lacking it.
b. The role of payphones today and in future, including for specific user-groups such as
low-income groups, remote Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, users
without mobile phones and users in areas without terrestrial mobile phone coverage.
2) The current and likely future structure of the market for services provided by
a. Number of payphones and suppliers in the market.
b. Geographical distribution of payphones.
c. Revenue and cost structures of payphone provision.
d. Functionality of payphones supplied.
e. Current and likely future market for substitutes and complements.
f. Current state of competition in the payphone market.
g. Level and distribution of demand.
h. Likely changes in payphone demand over time given greater access to substitutes,
changing technologies and new services.
3) The role of the competitive market in payphone provision:
a. Impact of regulation on competition, including:
i. Effect of price caps on calls from public payphones;
ii. Interaction of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) and the competitive
iii. Benefits of being the Primary Universal Service Provider (PUSP).
b. Performance of the competitive market in addressing community needs, including
those of special user groups.
c. Commercial viability of payphone provision in the current environment.
4) Developing policies for access to the services provided by payphones and
appropriate levels of service:
a. Future policy options for access to the services provided by payphones (possibly
including the use of technologies and services other than payphones) that is
commensurate with community needs while facilitating greater competition and
b. Appropriate arrangements for determining the location of payphones;
i. Processes for determining optimal numbers and location of payphones; and
ii. Criteria including financial arrangements for installation, resiting and removal
c. Appropriate access and service objectives for future payphone provision given current
gaps in accessibility and changing supply and demand, including:
i. Functionality of payphones;
ii. Levels of accessibility for people with a disability;
iii. Levels of accessibility for people in Indigenous communities;
iv. Consumer awareness of reasonable access to payphones; and
v. Performance and monitoring arrangements.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 2
d. Whether Telstra’s policies (as universal service provider) remain effective at providing
access to payphone services including:
i. with regard to the distribution and number of payphones supplied;
ii. with regard to provision of payphones for people with disabilities and remote
Indigenous communities; and
iii. whether the criteria and process for installation, resiting and removal of
payphones at a particular site are appropriate and sufficiently objective.
e. Performance and monitoring of payphone provision under the USO:
i. Role of the ACA in performance monitoring;
ii. Level of performance in installation, resiting, removal and repair of
iii. Level of performance achieved in Quality of Service and appropriate
iv. Current causes of low performance; and
v. Whether existing arrangements adequately address systemic issues.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 3
The Western Australian State Government welcomes the opportunity to have
input to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) review of Australia’s
payphone policy. The focus of the submission is on the necessity for the
ongoing needs of the user to be taken into consideration in the development
and implementation of payphone policy.
Mobile phones are not a realistic alternative for regional, rural and remote
Western Australians; just as they are not for many of the groups reliant on
payphones as their primary or supplementary means of electronic
communication. Consequently payphones will continue to play an important
role in the lives of a small but important proportion of the population.
1) The role of payphones
Payphones in Western Australia appear to be used by the following
• Those without a telephone service in their own home, including
many of the Indigenous community;
• Those whose home telephone service is not working, and who do
not have access to a mobile phone;
• Youth who wish to make phone calls in greater privacy than their
home phone will allow;
• The travelling public, whether residential or business, with no
access to mobile phone coverage; and
• Those in emergency situations. This may or may not be life-
threatening. For example, in the case of a vehicle breakdown, a
call will not need to be made to a recognised emergency service,
but often just to a garage or relative. Toll-free 000 numbers are
often not the calls that need to be made in these circumstances.
The groups that use the payphone in place of a home phone, and who use it
regularly, are likely to take advantage of phone card options. However the
people whose home phone is not working and those in emergency situations
– and often the travelling public – will be relying on coins to make their calls.
This needs to be borne in mind when considering the conversion of
payphones to card-only phones.
Due to safety concerns with overseas travel, there are increasing numbers of
Australians who are now holidaying within Australia. Many – including retirees
– take the opportunity to see more of Australia. These people are major
users of payphones, especially in areas where there is no mobile phone
coverage. For Western Australia, this is over 85% of the State. The poor
geographic coverage by terrestrial mobile phones is evident in the maps
attached in Appendix 1.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 4
Payphones are particularly important in Indigenous communities, where few
residents have a private phone. For many of these users, a card phone is a
convenient option, and one that often removes the temptation for others to
vandalise the phone and thus make it unusable.
2) The current and likely future structure of the market for services
provided by payphones
Mobile phone coverage is unlikely to extend significantly further in Western
Australia than exists currently, so there will be a continuing need for
payphones in rural and remote areas.
Satellite phones do not offer a true substitute for terrestrial mobile phones,
being far more expensive to purchase (even with a subsidy) and to operate.
Internet-based communication, whether by email or by Voice Over IP, is a
potential substitute, but is more likely to provide for those in the higher socio-
economic groups and in urban centres.
In considering future demand patterns, it is important to consider the different
needs of the key user groups, and their likely access to substitutes. Despite
efforts to introduce more appropriate options for Indigenous communities, it is
unlikely that a majority of the Indigenous population will have their own
telephones for many years to come. Payphones will remain a prime means of
communications for many in these communities.
While mobile phone ownership continues to grow among the young, the
economically disadvantaged and people in areas without mobile coverage will
continue to rely on the payphone for social interaction. Travellers are another
group who are likely to continue to rely on payphones when outside mobile
3) The role of the competitive market in payphone provision
Many of the payphones in regional Western Australia are likely to be provided
only because of Telstra’s Universal Service Obligation (USO). There is not,
and there is unlikely to be, any real competition in this market.
The Department of Industry and Resources has recently undertaken a
comprehensive examination of the communications needs of regional
Western Australians. During the last quarter of 2002, public consultations
were held in 42 locations throughout the State. Some of the information
gleaned in relation to payphones is included in Appendix 2. The extracts
clearly indicate the issues being experienced in terms of adequacy of supply,
location and repair.
Many communities do not feel that Telstra is responsive to their needs.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 5
4) Developing policies for access to the services provided by payphones
and appropriate levels of service
In developing policy options regarding payphones it is vital that the users of
the service are consulted both in policy development and in implementation.
The user groups identified will have different needs. For example, for people
using the phone regularly near their home, a phone-card service is likely to be
beneficial as vandalism is less likely to occur. However, it is essential that
people have ready access to phone card outlets. Many small Indigenous
communities do not have retail outlets, and those that do may not be open
when the need to purchase a card occurs, and so a card-operated phone is of
more limited value.
For those who use payphones less regularly, coin-operated phones will
continue to be necessary unless there is a major, and successful, awareness
program and 24-hour access to cards. Phone cards should have no expiry
Siting of the phones is critical to ensure ready access. During our
consultations, a lack of responsiveness to requests to move the payphones to
cater for changes in the layout and population growth of the community was
evident. In Warmun, approximately forty people live on the far side of the
creek and are cut off from the rest of the town during the wet season when the
creek floods. These people then have no access to telephone services.
There must be provision for the twenty-adult minimum to be modified in
circumstances like this.
Communities must be consulted about the best location for payphones, and
how they can be managed to minimise vandalism. In this way the community
is more likely to take ownership of, and be satisfied with, the outcome,
resulting in optimal outcomes for all parties.
Whereas regular users are likely to know where the payphones are located in
their vicinity, for many others this is unknown. Despite Telstra’s objections,
payphone locations should be printed in telephone directories as well as being
available on the internet. Internet-only listings will not benefit the majority of
the target groups that use payphones. A significant proportion of payphones
are not likely to be moved in a twelve-month period, so a clause indicating the
date that the information was valid and a best endeavours statement should
be sufficient to cover those instances where the payphone is no longer
available at that location. Each payphone should include the addresses of the
nearest available alternative payphones, just as is done for many Automatic
The consultation comments in Appendix 2 clearly identify gaps in the current
effectiveness of the USO and its implementation. Monitoring does not appear
to be sufficient.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 6
The knowledge of USO provisions regarding payphones is minimal in the
community. There is lack of awareness of entitlements to new payphones,
repair times and Telstra’s role in consulting with local communities. The “as
far as practicable” needs to be removed form the undertaking to consult.
In summary, payphones continue to provide an essential communications
service to particular segments of the population. Policy solutions must be
developed and implemented with particular regard to the disparate needs of
There must be improved consultation with local communities over the number,
location, resiting and maintenance of payphones, as well as the type.
However, the needs of non-regular users of payphones also have to be
considered if moves are made towards card-only solutions.
More has to be done to increase awareness of payphone universal service
obligations and regulated maintenance repair times among consumers. In
addition, the location of payphones must be publicly available to meet the
needs of the people they are designed to serve.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 7
State Development Strategies Phone: (08) 9222 5677
Department of Industry and Resources Fax: (08) 9222 5460
2 Havelock Street Email: email@example.com
WEST PERTH WA 6005
State Development Strategies Phone: (08) 9222 5675
Department of Industry and Resources Fax: (08) 9222 5460
2 Havelock Street E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST PERTH WA 6005
Payphone Submission – WA Government 8
MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE MAPS FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Payphone Submission – WA Government 9
TELSTRA – CDMA COVERAGE
Payphone Submission – WA Government 10
TELSTRA – GSM COVERAGE
Payphone Submission – WA Government 11
VODAFONE – GSM COVERAGE
Payphone Submission – WA Government 12
OPTUS – GSM COVERAGE
Payphone Submission – WA Government 13
REGIONAL WESTERN AUSTRALIAN INPUT ON PAYPHONES
During the last quarter of 2002, a team from the Department of Industry and
Resources travelled throughout regional Western Australia consulting with
local residents and businesses regarding their telecommunications needs.
The final report, Telecommunications Needs Assessment: the communication
needs of regional Western Australians, was published in August 2003, and is
available at www.doir.wa.gov.au.
The following are extracts from the consultation notes taken during this study.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 15
DAMPIER PENINSULAR Indigenous Communities (north of Broome in
One Arm Point – Needs more public phones. Vandalism is a problem, so
often phones don’t work.
Beagle Bay – One public phone needs to be relocated to reduce vandalism.
Need to have two to three more. Have two payphones for 350 – 400 people.
At the Hamersley Road phone boxes in Broome, phone users can’t hear for
the traffic noise.
Vandalism is a problem in communities. Telstra is trying hard to keep up.
There needs to be more phones.
Jigalong – only one pay phone in whole community. Similar in other
communities. (Jigalong is an Aboriginal community with a population of
One payphone at Mt Barnett at the store – works sometimes, other times
doesn’t. This is not related to vandalism. There is limited capacity to the
lines to the communities, so overload occurs. Can’t get through, particularly
early in the mornings. Capacity is insufficient – it has been made worse since
people have started using the Internet and email. This applies to Gibb River
At Biridu between Derby and Broome, the cost is $1000 to get a phone.
Can’t get a public phone in a community of 15-20 people. Have to go out on
road and flag someone down if there is an emergency.
There are no emergency phones for long distances along the road – big
stretches in the Kimberley and Pilbara. There are only two roadhouses in a
600 km stretch. There is a danger of hitting cows – have to wait for the next
car for help. In the wet season this can be a long wait.
Remote communities need a better coin management system. Payphones
are often full and do not operate. This is a regular problem along Gibb River
Road. Also at the Burrabi community and on Drysdale Station. Apart from
Drysdale, you can’t buy phone cards in the communities. This is an issue for
replacement of coin phones by card phones.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 16
FITZROY CROSSING (Kimberley)
There is a move away from payphones in communities. Putting normal
phones in homes. The community pays the bills but this limits vandalism.
One house has a phone installed that is a community phone. Paid for by all of
the community. Works well. Less vandalism but disrupts life of householder.
With payphones someone has to be responsible for telephone box – cleaning,
emptying money etc. Still problems with vandalism in some larger
It takes a long time to get serviced. Had to get two payphones moved last
year as the layout of the community had changed – it took a year to get done.
HALLS CREEK (Kimberley)
Safety issues: The payphones are only located in the old areas of town, not
the new. The majority of local residents do not have a phone. There are two
payphones in the main street, and two at the shire offices. There are none in
the “Garden Area”. The person with a phone in this street keeps on getting
people knocking on the door to use their phone.
They have been waiting two years for the additional payphones. This (the
“Garden Area”) is a long road servicing fifty odd houses. It is a volatile area.
The phones are likely to be vandalised but still there is a definite need.
Telstra has been out on a number of occasions to assess the location.
Need to consider design of public phones. Should be card system, not coins,
and should be built simply. Current concept is wrong – they are attractive to
children. Kids get the phones to jam.
Aboriginal settlement at Turkey Creek. 450 residents rising to 600 during the
There are two payphones in community – one by shop, and one down the
end. The other side of Turkey Creek needs a service (40 people) – they get
cut off when the creek floods.
They have applied for 2 more phones – Telstra is reluctant as high
Council has a plan – looking at the possibility of getting Gold Phones or Blue
Phones. There are five family groups in the community – if each family group
could be given access to one by it being placed in the house of a leader, it
may solve many of the problems. Worth a go.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 17
There is a constant stream of people walking to phones at local service
station. There are no street lights – this is very dangerous with traffic on the
road at night. This is a safety issue.
There needs to be more payphones so people can call the health clinic.
The payphones are broken all the time. There are two at the Post Office, and
one at the caravan park. There was one at the port but this got torn out and
thrown in the water, and hasn’t been replaced. There is a Gold Phone at the
There is often a 2-3 day wait for repairs to the payphone at the Community
Club. This is a real issue for calling taxis etc. The Club is located five miles
from town. They only seem to fix it when they are here (not a special trip).
There is a problem here with specialisation as well – the crew has come over
and looked at it in response to a fault report, only to say they weren’t trained
to fix a gold phone and someone else needed to come out. This took another
3 days – Friday to Monday. This is the busiest time of the week for the
Country (Community) Club.
YANDAYARRA (Aboriginal community in the Pilbara)
The coin-operated payphones get broken into, but there is no problem with
the card-operated ones. Can take from 3-4 days to several weeks to repair.
The community suggests all card phone boxes would be appropriate for them.
Tourists use two pay phones (coin/card), which are vandalised. Payphones
in the Aboriginal village are not vandalised. It takes approximately 3-4 days to
There was an experiment with a solar-powered Dorophone payphone that
was installed at the caravan park. This was unsuccessful.
The caravan park has approximately 100 visitors on a winter weekend; there
are four times as many people in town in June as at Xmas. This transient
demand needs to be considered in payphone decisions.
There are two public phones in Carnarvon: why are they side-by-side?
There are more on the way, including TTY.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 18
The payphones are in disrepair. A nun tried to reach a colleague and the line
cut off after making a connection. The colleague thought there was an
emergency and desperately tried to reach her.
NORSEMAN (DUNDAS SHIRE) (Goldfields-Esperance region)
Payphones are used widely in Eucla because of the lack of mobile coverage
on both sides of the border.
MENZIES (Goldfields-Esperance region)
Menzies is very small and on its own would be very difficult to justify services,
but there is considerable passing traffic. There are 120 – 130 in the town, 70
– 80% are Aboriginal.
Menzies has one payphone. There are some problems with vandalism but
they have no complaints. The Hotel licensee looks after the payphone.
LAVERTON (Goldfields-Esperance region)
There appears to be sufficient payphones in the shire. There are four in town
opposite the police station, and each Aboriginal community has a payphone.
There is some vandalism, but generally this is not a problem and the phones
are well used.
KALGOORLIE (Goldfields-Esperance region)
Vandalism of payphones is a problem in town.
The Ambulance Service has been concerned that there is no payphone for a
dry indigenous community outside the town. Apparently there is a
considerable distance to walk before you can use a phone.
LEONORA (Goldfields-Esperance region)
Leonora has caged payphones in the main street – these phones are in
Recently a payphone was removed from Gwalia following vandalism. Telstra
also removed the concrete slab. This is/was the only payphone in the area.
This is a problem as they are trying to promote the area as a tourist precinct.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 19
WIDGIEMOOLTHA (Goldfields-Esperance region)
The lone public phone located at the Widgiemooltha Road House is reliant on
generator power for its operation. The generator is switched off at night, so
the payphone is unavailable between 11.30 pm and 7.00 am. Given the
limited mobile phone service coverage between Norseman and Coolgardie,
this adds to the risk in emergency situations.
There is a high usage of payphones in the area, although it was noted no one
in the community takes on the responsibility of looking after it. It used to be
the post office that was paid by Telstra but not any more. Maintenance
standards have slipped.
KATANNING (Great Southern)
Telstra has removed a lot of payphones but the coverage is still okay. There
is a big damage bill. The ones in the main street of Katanning are always
being replaced. People smash the glass.
The need for public phones is being replaced in this area by people having
There are two payphones out in front of the Shire offices, one at the caravan
park, one at Crossman, two at Halfway House and one at another roadhouse.
Unsure of the number in Quindanning. There is good coverage by
payphones in this area.
NORTHCLIFFE (South West)
There are two public phones in Northcliffe; one that operates with a card.
There is also one at Mill Town. Vandalism is a problem.
Payphone Submission – WA Government 20