Universal Service Obligation (voice services)

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) is a long-standing consumer protection that supports access to phone services and payphones.

Telstra is responsible for delivering the USO, and must provide standard telephone services (STS) on request to premises in Australia within reasonable timeframes, and make payphones reasonably available nationally. This is both a legislative and contractual obligation. 

The Australian Government is currently examining universal telecommunications service arrangements in light of changes in available technologies and consumer preferences over recent years. More information on activities currently underway is available at Modernising universal telecommunications services. Further details on consultation on future delivery of universal services is also available from our have your say page. Submissions to the ‘Better delivery of universal services’ consultation closed on 1 March 2024, and have been published.

Better reporting requirements for Telstra

Under its carrier licence conditions, Telstra is reporting more frequent, localised and detailed data on its performance outside the NBN fixed-line footprint, where generally it still provides its own infrastructure to deliver STS.

Telstra is required to report publicly each quarter against a number of key indicators and provides performance details to the department and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The data reporting requirements include service availability, connection timeframes, faults and outages, repair timeframes and appointment timeframes at the exchange service area level. It also provides national complaint and customer contact handling data.

By ensuring access to more detailed information, this reporting framework provides the community with greater transparency and gives the department a more comprehensive understanding of the performance and reliability of Telstra's network on the ground.

Quarterly reports can be downloaded from Telstra’s Regional Service Performance page.

Telstra Universal Service Obligation Performance Agreement

We administer the Telstra Universal Service Obligation Performance Agreement (Agreement) on behalf of the Australian Government. The Agreement sets out the scope of services to be performed by Telstra in delivering standard telephone and payphone services under the USO.

We regularly assess Telstra's performance to determine whether it has met the requirements set out in the Agreement. The performance criteria are based on fixed-line and payphone standards and benchmarks made under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (TCPSS Act). Performance information after 1 July 2016 is contained in the relevant Departmental Annual Reports. Performance information prior to 1 July 2016 is contained in Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency (TUSMA) Annual Reports.

In accordance with s.71 and s.72 of the TCPSS Act, the Department is required to maintain publicly-available registers of contracts and grants, including the Agreement, on its website. Details required to be published include:

  • the name of the contractor/grant recipient;
  • the value and duration of the contract/grant; and
  • a description of the scope of services required – in this case, under Module B – STS USO and Module C- Payphones USO, of the Agreement.

The register of contracts and grants is available online.