Greg's official complaints about Telstra's BigPond NextG Wireless Broadband service
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Telstra's NextG Internet service has been a catastrophe. There's no technical support, no escalation, extremely buggy software, discrepancies in the accounting, and no way to ensure that they stick to what they promise. I've written another page about the general issues; this one is merely a log of the progress (or lack of progress) of the individual complaints I have lodged.

Broken driver for Apple Mac

I made complaint on 16 September 2007, two days after I got the hardware.. It was given “Questus" number 4833661. It didn't seem to make it to the real complaints database until 21 September, under reference number 112743918.

The complaint

The complaint: The driver for the Apple Mac is not usable. It panics (crashes) the system within hours, it can't handle more than one interface properly: it inconsistently scrambled the IP addresses, taking the address from the wrong interface. As a result, I can't use this software on my hardware, and I needed to borrow a Microsoft machine to use as a gateway.

Current status

As of 12 November 2007, not resolved. I have no indication that anybody has taken any action whatsoever on this serious problem.


Before I reported this problem, I first asked to speak to a supervisor, and was told that I would be called back. Despite several reminders, this never happened. Here's what did happen:

(16 September) Called up BigPond and spoke with Joel, who told me that the behaviour of the Mac software was normal. Asked to speak to a supervisor, but it seems I have to wait for a call back. Decided to put in a complaint, for which he said he had to transfer to the complaints department.

Once back in the technical support, spoke to Rhys, who told me that the Mac OS driver was “not fully supported”, though the web pages and advertising claim that it is. I detect a level of frustration with a number of these people. He finally took a complaint (Questus number 4833661).

Non-functional antenna

The complaint

I ordered a whip antenna to improve the reception, since I live in an area with poor coverage. The antenna arrived on 22 September 2007, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't work. BigPond technical support is absolutely incapable of supporting this device; they can't even identify it with any certainly.

When I entered this complaint, on 22 September 2007, I was given a reference number 20070922, which is one way of writing that date. I strongly suspect that the support person (who identified himself as Mikaele) didn't actually enter a complaint. I pointed out that the reference number was the date, and very different in value to the previous reference number.

Current status

After much time on the telephone, BigPond agreed to take back the antenna, and sent me a bag to put it in:


That's the antenna (non-dismountable) outside. I sent the loose components back along with a letter.

I heard nothing further. On 12 November 2007, I received a bill from Telstra which invoiced me again for the antenna.


Saturday, 22 September 2007

Received an antenna for the wireless modem in the post. It didn't look promising: the packaging looked like an afterthought, and was damaged, and there was no kind of padding inside:


That was only the start, though: the documentation (a poor photocopy) appeared to refer to a different antenna (COL 1790 instead of CD 1798), and it referred to components not supplied, such as the mounting tube, and the hose clamps supplied seemed to be far too big. It also referred to phones, but not to the modem. The modem has two antennas; this is a single antenna. At least it has the correct connector, but what do you do with the other one? Leave the old antenna on there, or remove it? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? You'd think so, but how can you be sure?

Taped the antenna high on the outside wall and tried it out. The only measurement I had was the five bar scale on the toy display. Results:

In other words, it didn't work at all, heightening my suspicion that it was the wrong item. Rang up Big Pond technical support yet again (133 933, menu codes 1,3,1 (the last to indicate what kind of modem I have)), and spoke to Mitesh, who told me that my account had been aborted. After I assured him that this was not the case, he changed his mind and asked me what kind of modem I had. Finally I was able to explain what my problem was. He asked me what kind of antenna I had, and what the gain was (something not mentioned on anything that I had at my disposal). I replied that I didn't know, and that it should have been in my account, since it was sent to me from them. He appeared unable to determine the type, and though I had told him it was a roof mount rod antenna, he continued asking about other kinds of antenna. Finally he put me on hold and came back to tell me that he had spoken to the technical support people (I thought that's what he was supposed to be), who said it was a very high gain antenna and needed professional installation. He was unable to explain why professional installation is needed for high-gain antennas.

I asked to be connected to the technical support people, and was finally connected to Zack, who asked all the questions over again, and finally told me that “antennas get installed”. I explained that this had been sold to me as a self-install antenna, and he decided that maybe he should connect me to the technical support people. After a while, I was connected to Mikaele (Me: “Who am I speaking to?”; Mikaele “Me”), who went over the whole thing all over again, and finally told me that I should call the technical support people on Monday. I asked him to have them call me back, but that wasn't possible.

It's clear that all three people completely missed the point. My concern was that the antenna is defective, ineffective, or just plain the wrong model. They seemed to think that I was too stupid to install it, and Mikaele effectively said so. Finally asked him to put in a complaint, which he first refused to do: the one I put in on Monday as Questus number 4833661 has now been reentered (yesterday!) as reference number 112743918. He said that that should be enough, though that complaint referred to the bugs in the software supplied for Apple. Finally he took a complaint, or told me that he had done so, and gave me the reference number 20070922. I pointed out that this was today's date, but that didn't seem to worry him.

I'm left wondering what really goes on there. It's clear that nobody I spoke to has the slightest idea about these antennas; but one of them sold it to me, and I'm wondering if it will do any good even if it's the correct one and not damaged. But I've wasted another hour talking to people who can't hel at all, and it looks as if I need to persuade Big Pond to take the thing back. How I hate Telstra!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Michael (no surname) responded to my report of problems with the modem antenna pointing to the RFI catalogue, which on page 45 refers to a COL 1798 antenna that looks pretty much like mine (which is inscribed CD 1798). So possibly that part of the story is OK. I wonder what the problem is; maybe it was really damaged in transit. One thing's interesting, though: the gain is given as 6.5 dB, hardly “high gain”. I wonder if that would even make any difference to the number of bars on the modem display.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Today had an 84 minute phone call to Big Pond technical support which brought effectively nothing. After establishing that the help desk knows nothing about the antennas, I had hoped that I would be connected with somebody who did. Instead, I was answered by Laura, who wanted to know the IMSI and IMEI values for the modem, though it had nothing to do with the modem. Finally she connected me to Darrell, who was in the high gain antenna department. That, of course, meant 14 dB Yagi arrays, so he was unable to help me. There's every reason to believe that the gain of the rod antenna won't be enough, though, so I noted the phone number: 1 800 305 307.

Darrell connected me to Jamie in sales, not quite the person I wanted, but at least he confirmed that I could get a refund if I decided to go for a Yagi antenna. He then connected me back to the entry menu of the technical support. After choosing the options again, was connected to Brendan, who wanted to know what kind of antenna I had. I said “CD 1798”, but he didn't know what that meant. He connected me to Jay in Telstra satellite activation, who of course couldn't help either, though he is apparently also responsible for installing Yagi antennas. I get the distinct feeling that the rod antennas are not taken seriously.

He connected me back to tech support again, and this time I was connected with Kathy, who told me that all they had about the antenna was a sheet of paper—I suspect it's the same one I have. She wasn't able help me, she wasn't able to connect me to a supervisor—“They're all out on training”, and she wasn't able to find anybody else to help me. Clearly the management structure and escalation procedures are completely inadequate.

Of course, she also wasn't able to answer any questions: What do you do with the other antenna connection on the modem? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? How many dB between the bars on the modem? Finally, I gave up and asked them to take the antenna back. Was connected to Tara, who wanted to cancel the entire account, but I think I talked her out of it. She then connected me on to Michael, who promised to arrange a bag to send the antenna back. I wonder if he hasn't been told the size of the antenna.

So, back to square one. Should I order a Yagi? At least it would be installed by a technician who would not be able to leave it there if it didn't work, but would it make enough difference? It occurred to me that I have an old Yagi TV antenna (300-700 MHz) which I could rebuild for the 850 MHz band, and conceivably I could get more than 14 dB out of it. Hugh Blemings pointed me to some antenna design programs, but unfortunately they all cost money, in fact in the same order of magnitude as buying and installing an antenna from Telstra. More to think about.

Other strangenesses

Refund of $454.50

On 25 September 2007 I received a strange letter from Telstra's Customer Relations department, telling me that Telstra regret the problems I've been having and have credited $454.50 odd to my account, leaving a credit of $28. That's all the more puzzling because it was dated 21 September, at which time I had just put in a complaint about the completely broken driver software for Apple, and at the time the letter was written my total debt to Telstra was about $50. Tried to call up the maybe toll-free number they mentioned, but got a recorded message telling me the hours of operation, and that I should call back later or maybe leave a message. Did the latter.

In the meantime, got a message that a new release of the driver was available, so installed that.

Some hours later got a call back from the author of the letter, Diana Booth. It eventuated that she had mixed up my case with another, so sadly no $450 for me. At least she was a sympathetic listener and sounded horrified when I told her of the problems I've had with Big Pond technical support. For reference, they are:

All this must be very frustrating for the personnel themselves.

The following day, I got another call today from Diana Booth at Telstra, telling me that yes, indeed, I can keep the $450 that she accidentally promised me last week. That's nice to hear, though I wonder how it will work if they haven't actually credited it to my account, but it still doesn't solve the broken Apple drivers. Diane promised to ensure that the problem was escalated; let's hope it works, but as I said, this should be done for everybody.

Unknown complaints

I haven't had anybody address these complaints, but they claim to have “addressed” others that I didn't know about. On 10 January 2008 I received another letter from Telstra's Customer Relations department, who seem to operate completely independently from the rest of the company. They gave a reference which apparently was supposed to be a complaint reference number, but one I had never seen before, and told me it had been closed. How? Why? So far Telstra has not resolved a single problem that I have had. Wrote a reply, also sent to my MP. I have little hope that they will resolve anything.

Unclear credits

My Internet usage is handled via my phone bill, where things look different again. In the bill date 8 October 2007, there were two refund items:

Bill of 8 November 2007

This bill showed no sign of the $454.50 that Diana Booth had promised; instead, there was an item “one-off adjustment” for $105.95.

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