Temasek Holdings

Phone battle rings up message for HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1993, 12:00am

IT would have been an interesting exercise if the telecommunications powers that be at the Office of the Telecommunciations Authority (OFTA) had been able to send an observation team to Australia to learn from the confusion caused by the introduction of asecond telecommunications supplier.

Australian Telecom versus Optus can only be described as an all out commercial war on a battlefield which extends to every corner of the country.

And it is difficult to see where the hapless consumer benefits in any way, cost aside.

Instead of generating a higher quality of telecommunications facilities, the fight has caused both suppliers to focus attention on each other's activities, rather than the provision of improved customer services.

The highly competitive advertising campaign being staged by Ausralian Telecom and Optus is reportedly by far the largest seen in Australia.

The level of advertising in this war - The entire cost of which has to be borne by the consumer in one way or another - has sunk to new depths.

Readers may recall that I wrote about Australian Telecom's questionable ethics in advertising last year when the organisation ran a campaign which blandly claimed superiority over Hongkong.

It will be a long time before Australian Telecom can claim a fully digital network equivalent to Hongkong Telecom.

One Australian Telecom television advertisement, which virtually defeats the purpose of breaking a monopoly, depicts the reception desk of a hotel with a well-greased individual behind the counter.

An obviously exhausted business woman arrives at the desk to check in and asks the reception manager to send housekeeping and room service to her room.

With a nasty smirk, the smoothy responds: ''I am sorry, we don't do laundry or room service, we just have rooms.'' Optus has had to introduce its services via the Australian Telecom physical network in place and obviously cannot, at this time, offer the connection services which the network owner, Australian Telecom, is able to provide.

This advertisement could be interpreted as unfair at the very least; others may view it as unethical and misleading.

I would be surprised if Optus is not peering carefully at the terms of the second licence granted by the Government with the view to demanding compensation.

There is no comparison between the quality of the telephone lines in Australia and those in Hongkong.

Hongkong Telecom's win hands down and residents should consider themselves fortunate.

With the focus firmly away from customer needs, an investigation has been formally instigated as a result of Optus' allegation that Australian Telecom had deliberately failed to connect up to 75 per cent of its overseas callers.

Last Friday, it was announced that Australian Telecom had to repay the bills of hundreds of mobile telephone users, which it had allegedly poached from Optus.

Most of the arguments going on between the two telephone suppliers seem childish.

It is a pity customer service has been buried in this melee of commercial bickering.

Let us hope that it does not happen in Hongkong. The best advice I can give OFTA is to paraphrase the old adage: ''If it ain't broke, don't fix it.''