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Monday, 05 December 2011 09:10

Trans-Tasman roaming cost enquiry progresses - slowly

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DBCDE has called tenders for the provision of economic consultancy advice as part of the joint Australia-New Zealand investigation into trans-Tasman mobile roaming costs.

In the latest development in this long-running saga, on 16 November DBCDE published, on the Austender web site, a call for tenders for the provision of the economic consultancy. Tenders close on 12 December.

It is now almost three years since a Parliamentary enquiry tabled the report on international mobile roaming charges. Its primary recommendation was that: "The Australian Government pursue a policy of regulating the framework for the wholesale cost of roaming through bilateral and multilateral negotiations with other countries, ensuring that countries with the largest number of Australian visitors are given priority."

In May 2010, following that report and extensive lobbying by the - now defunct - Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG) and its New Zealand counterpart, TUANZ, the Australian and New Zealand Governments released a discussion paper on the issue of trans-Tasman mobile roaming.

Based on feedback to that paper the two governments decided that there was sufficient indication of high prices to launch a formal investigation, which they did on 28 April 2011, issuing a paper setting out the reasons for their decision.

According to the DBCDE web site on trans-Tasman mobile roaming the enquiry will primarily seek to determine: "Whether there is wholesale market failure; if so, whether it is affecting retail customers; if so, whether market forces are likely to resolve the failure and the impact on retail customers; and if not, whether regulatory intervention is appropriate to remedy the market failure and/or its impact on retail customers."

The DBCDE and its New Zealand counterpart say they will "prepare a draft decision that outlines their market definition, an assessment of competition in the market and the options for joint action in the event of a market failure being determined." These options may include regulatory intervention.

The draft decision will be made publicly available for comment by interested stakeholders prior to a final decision being made. The two governments expect to release their final decision on the outcome of the investigation in 2012.

The new tender will be the third tender let by DBCDE for advice on international mobile roaming. In 2008 KPMG was awarded a $76,000 contract for the provision of expert advice on international mobile roaming charges and early in 2011 Frontier Economics scored a $72,000 contract for trans-Tasman mobile roaming analysis.

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