31 May 2024

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Dusty Fitzpatrick.

2BS Bathurst

Subject: Don’t be a 3G switch-off casualty

Dusty Fitzpatrick

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson has urged small, family and farming businesses to make sure they're not caught out by the 3G switch-off happening in August and September. Bruce joins us now, good afternoon. 

Bruce Billson

Dusty, great to be with you and the listeners. 

Dusty Fitzpatrick

Wonderful to have your company this afternoon. Could you talk us through how significant the potential impact is of the 3G switch-off for small businesses, particularly those in rural areas?

Bruce Billson

It been a big deal and it still is a big deal and it's coming to a real crunch point after some years that we've known 3G was going to be turned off. The TPG and Vodafone networks switched off 3G already, and we know that Optus is planning to switch off its 3G network on the 1st of September and Telstra is doing the same on the 31st of August.

Why I've tried to raise awareness and bring attention to this, is that for a lot of rural and regional and farming and small businesses, they've got 3G technology embedded in the things that they use as a central part of their business. So, most people know the 3G handsets that you might use for phones and texting, they've be pretty alert that that's got a real shelf life to it. And most people have taken action to remedy that. 

But what’s less clear is you look at some of the older EFTPOS terminals, look at some security systems, even asset tracking tools. And for the farming community, some of the water and land environmental management wireless systems actually have 3G behind them as the communication that makes that kit, that technology, actually function.

So, most people don't focus on that underlying technology for the wireless aspect of that kit. They focus on the water monitoring effectiveness, the microclimate analysis, opening and shutting gates or tracking assets. And even in rural and regional areas, I know at some of the fuel stations now, you've got capacity to fill up with diesel and the like and the EFTPOS terminal that sits there to help enable that transaction, like with some vending machines, Dusty, actually has 3G technology sitting behind it. 

So that's why I'm saying to people, don't become a fatality of the 3G turn off, check the functionality of the kit and technology that may well be using it and take action before that kit becomes dysfunctional. 

Dusty Fitzpatrick

What steps do you recommend small businesses take to determine if their devices will be affected?

Bruce Billson

Well, a couple of things you can do. First of all, check yourselves. I mean, if there's still people with owner's manuals and technical specifications and the like, check on those things. 

Next step I would probably do would be to reach out to your supplier. So, if you've got a rural supply industry that may have provided you with the water tank opening and shutting sort of technology, just checking with them.

And the other thing is you can jump online. There's a couple of resources. Telstra has got some on its website about mobile devices, so has Optus. But there's also the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, which has set up a website www.3gclosure.com.au 

That's some resources where you can go and check that out. I guess my message is don't be caught out by it. Take some steps now, make some inquiries and reassure yourself that something vital to your business is not all of a sudden going to turn up the toes just because the 3G network’s been switched off.

Dusty Fitzpatrick

Important message this afternoon. Bruce, as always, thank you for your time.

Bruce Billson

Good to be with you Dusty.