The criticism by Digital Tasmania follows the government’s announcement on Monday of its investment of $790,000 in a joint project with Telstra to improve mobile coverage and increase mobile network capacity in Tasmania’s west coast region.
Despite welcoming the investment, Digital Tasmania spokesperson John Allan criticised the funding decision, saying that “other major mobile providers - Optus and Vodafone - received nothing, and what’s more there’s no conditions on this funding to allow them access”.
“This recent handout from the government for mobile coverage is akin to picking winners, where one commercial provider and their customers benefit, but other providers and their customers miss out,” Allan said.
Digital Tasmania cited recent figures it said showed that Telstra has a 42% share of the mobile phone market in Australia with Optus, Vodafone and other players representing the remaining 58%.
And Digital Tasmania says there’s anecdotal evidence that in Tasmania Telstra’s market share is higher for historical reasons - however it’s likely that tourists from interstate visiting the West Coast aren’t Telstra customers.
According to Digital Tasmania, Government investment in expanding mobile coverage by any one provider is helpful in the case where people need to dial Triple Zero in an emergency, and if the subscribers network isn’t available the call will be routed through any other available network.
“We’d like to see more focus on providing better mobile coverage for all consumers that avoids duplication of infrastructure at a cost to the taxpayer,” Allan said.
“Government funding to resolve blackspots should be aimed at building tower sites that provide access to all telcos on an equal basis. Similarly, in the past there have been capacity swaps and roaming deals which allow customers of one carrier to use the tower belonging to another carrier, which could potentially deliver results faster at a lower cost.
“Ultimately this issue is about government picking winners and reducing a consumer’s choice when they want to live in or travel to remote areas.” Allan concluded.