THE switch was flicked this week to turn on the first phase of the new mobile telephone service to replace the analogue network. The communities of Harvey, Gingin, Merredin (including Great Eastern Highway between Doodlakine and Burrecoppin), Northam, Goomalling, Cunderdin, York and Bakers Hills can now receive the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) service. Geraldton will also have its own CDMA service from this week, as part of a trial of the extended cell and software under commercial conditions. Telstra is working with the Geraldton Fishermans Co-operative to test if the CDMA signal from the transmitter at Moresby Ranges, north of Geraldton, can be accessed from the southern Abrolhos Islands, 50-60 kilometres away. While the analogue service will be turned off in the greater metropolitan area on December 31, it will be maintained in rural areas until the CDMA service is installed. By January 2000, the CDMA coverage is scheduled to be extended to the south-west coastal strip, including the Old Coast Road and South Western Highway routes. The service will be turned on in major towns in the Great Southern by April 2000, while large communities in the Midwest, Wheatbelt and the Goldfields as well as along the Brand Highway route will receive the service by July that year. The final phase should be completed by October 2000, when major towns in the Pilbara and Kimberley should come online. Telstra mobile networks regional manager Alan Mills said the CDMA network would have a coverage area at least as good as the analogue service, but he would not be drawn on suggestions that it could be even better. "We will get the equivalent coverage to the analogue service where there was an analogue transmitter," Mr Mills said. Whereas the GSM digital service has a 25km range, Mr Mills was hopeful the CDMA coverage would extend to 40-50km from the transmitter. The CDMA network is another digital network, which will operate totally separately to the existing GSM digital mobile network. Users will not be able to use their existing analogue or GSM digital mobile telephones to access the CDMA network. They will have to purchase a new mobile telephone designed specifically for the CDMA network, which will look very similar to and cost about the same as a GSM digital mobile telephone with the same level of charges. These mobile telephones work on the CDMA network but, if a signal cannot be found, it will automatically try to access the GSM digital network. The CDMA network, which will be accessed by a 0427, 0428 or 0429 dialing prefix, will have all the same service features as the GSM network, such as message bank. Like the GSM network, the CDMA network will have a range that cuts off when the signal is not strong enough. Mr Mills said the CDMA network has superior voice production and an excellent noise suppression feature. "You will not get the crackle and pops with CDMA, it will cut off (if there is a poor signal), but there is a lot more range," he said. pFor more information about the CDMA network and when it will reach you, telephone: 018 018 111.