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Communications Industry Y2k statement - July

The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today released a Ministerial statement on the Year 2000 readiness of the communications sector.

The statement draws on the ACA's recent report on industry performance covering the period to 14 May 1999 and covers companies collectively responsible for 13.5 million telephone lines. Senator Alston also welcomed statements on the readiness of the finance and aviation sectors made by the Treasurer and the Minister for Transport and Regional Services respectively.

'Preparations for Y2K readiness are continuing soundly and the report is positive overall,' Senator Alston said. High levels of remediation for network and information technology (IT) systems were reported by the major carriers (Telstra, C&W Optus, Vodafone, AAPT) and smaller carriers and carriage service providers (CSPs).

'The connective nature of the telecommunications sector emphasises the knock-on effects of the Y2K issue - no company or individual is an island when it comes to the Y2K problem,' Senator Alston said.

'For this very reason the Government is particularly encouraged by the various efforts of industry participants in pursuing vendor compliance statements, working on interconnection strategies with domestic and international carriers and undertaking consumer information strategies.'

Main Carriers (Telstra, C&W Optus, Vodafone, AAPT)

By 14 May the major carriers had expended approximately $270 million on Y2K preparedness and expect to have spent $540 million by June 2000. Each has reported that their progress remains on track and that high levels (up to 90%) of remediation for critical network and information technology (IT) systems have been achieved.
The carriers have indicated that remediation of critical network and IT systems would be complete or nearing completion this month (July).

The carriers have also reported that they have communications strategies in place with vendors and are contacting their customers, both business and residential. Telstra and C&W Optus have also re-launched their Y2K Websites, increasing the range of information available and focussing on enabling customers to assess their own Y2K compliance.

The four carriers have also made numerous statements to customers and industry groups which have been designated as Year 2000 disclosure statements under the Year 2000 Information Disclosure Act 1999.

The carriers have indicated that contingency planning is one of the main focus points of their Y2K programs this year and that this focus will intensify as the year progresses. All carriers have commenced contingency planning, Telstra and Optus reported that a large proportion of their resources this year would be expended on contingency planning.
Other Carriers and CSPs

Senator Alston said that a number of smaller carriers have reported on their preparedness, but expressed disappointment that many had not done so.

'The smaller carriers that did report have indicated that Y2K remediation was not required or that necessary remediation of critical network and IT systems was 60-100% complete. Planned Y2K "ready" dates for all services among smaller carriers ranged between June and October 1999,' Senator Alston said.

'Smaller carriers have identified no high-risk areas. The smaller carriers are generally managing cross-network service continuity issues proactively and participating in industry fora principally the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF).'

Senator Alston said that the ACA had identified an apparent lack of contingency planning on the part of smaller carriers and the lateness of interconnection testing, domestically and internationally, as matters for follow-up.

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) Providers

'Only six out of the fourteen CPE providers reported their progress. This is disappointing and the Government supports ACA efforts to improve reporting in this area,' Senator Alston said.

All respondents have indicated that necessary resources had been allocated to tackle the Y2K problem. All respondents have vendor and customer communications strategies in place and had developed or were developing contingency plans. All respondents had commenced testing for product compliance. Most of the respondents' products manufactured since 1995 were reported as being Y2K compliant.

Emergency Services

Industry has indicated that high priority has been given to the implementation of Y2K strategies and contingencies plans in relation to the emergency call service. Effective network interworking to support emergency call services is being addressed by a sub-group of ACIF's Y2K Telecommunications Intercarrier Group (Y2K TIG).

Testing of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), which is used to provide service information to emergency service organisations, has been completed and IPND is expected to be able to continue to operate effectively.

ACIF Work

The ACIF has established the Y2K TIG to address inter-carrier issues that may effect cross-network service provision. Testing conducted by TIG has confirmed dates are not passed between networks, limiting the potential for Y2K problems. Inter-carrier testing is expected to conclude this month (July). TIG has also established a Contingency Planning Sub-Group to develop coordinated industry contingency plans by September 1999. ACIF has made Y2K information available on its website to promote industry and wider awareness of Y2K.

Future Scrutiny

Senator Alston welcomed the generally high level of preparedness that had been achieved by 14 May, but said that he shared the ACA's concerns that some companies had not reported, that some companies had not completed their Y2K inventories (by the reporting date), that contingency planning could be better and that testing and compliance was in some cases being left too late, leaving little margin for error.

He applauded the ACA's intention to focus on these and other issues in its forthcoming monitoring and reporting.
'The Government fully supports the ACA's efforts to keep the community aware of the sector's progress in achieving Y2K preparedness,' Senator Alston said.

'Peak industry bodies like ACIF, AEEMA, and the Retail Traders Association also have an important part to play in helping the ACA collect information that it can use to inform the public about the Y2K compliance of the network and telecommunications customer equipment.'

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