Tuesday, 24 October 2017 01:46

ACCAN green-lights roaming decision, but wants more regional mobile competition Featured

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In the wake of the competition watchdog’s decision not to declare mobile roaming services, the telecommunications consumer interest group ACCAN has called for existing mobile networks to be further upgraded to improve capacity and reduce congestion, particularly in regional and rural areas.

Teresa Corbin, the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, made the call on Monday when welcoming the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's decision not to declare mobile roaming.

Corbin also took the opportunity to repeat previous comments that ACCAN was a strong advocate for better mobile services and coverage, and wanted to see improved competition in regional and rural parts of the country.

The ACCC announced on Monday that it would not declare domestic mobile roaming but that it had identified a range of regulatory and policy measures that could improve inadequate mobile phone coverage and poor quality of service in regional Australia.

Australia’s two biggest telcos — Telstra and Optus — both welcomed the ACCC’s decision not to declare roaming services, while Vodafone said that too many Australians would continue to miss out as a result of the decision.

Vodafone was vehement in its condemnation of the non-declaration of mobile roaming, with chief strategy officer, Dan Lloyd blasting the ACCC’s final report as a bad decision for regional Australia.

“Large parts of the country will continue to miss out on the mobile coverage and choice that it wants, needs and deserves. This decision rings alarm bells for regional communities. The inquiry has shone a spotlight on the alarming lack of competition and high prices for mobile in many areas, but the ACCC seems to think that this is ok,” Lloyd said.

In its decision, the ACCC says it "must be satisfied that declaration would promote the long-term interests of end-users" but its inquiry had found that declaration would likely not lead to lower prices or better coverage or quality of services for regional Australians".

But, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the inquiry had heard from many regional consumers and businesses that “inadequate mobile coverage in regional areas affects the social and economic well-being of regional communities".

While giving the thumbs up to the decision not to declare roaming, Corbin also welcomed the ACCC’s issues paper on measures to address regional mobile issues which maps out actions for improving mobile coverage in rural, regional and remote areas.

Proposals by the ACCC include:

  • Measures to achieve more transparent and consistent public information about network coverage and service quality from mobile network providers to guide consumer choice, policy decisions and programmes;
  • More transparency about future network investment from mobile providers to assist in co-ordinating local investment in regional Australia;
  • Measures to reduce the costs of building and improving mobile networks and supporting a competitive environment; and
  • Arrangements for taking greater account of competition issues in the management and allocation of spectrum, which is essential for the operation of communications services

According to Corbin, consumers and small businesses in regional, rural and remote areas need “additional coverage where they live, work and travel”.

“We believe the approach adopted by the ACCC acknowledges the potentially negative consequences of regulated roaming while identifying ways of improving competition to support better services.

“Existing mobile networks need to be upgraded to improve capacity and reduce congestion. Enhancements to mobile networks would go a long way in improving the daily lives of non-metro consumers and ensuring access to emergency services. Improving and extending mobile coverage in regional and rural areas needs to be a priority for the Government and the mobile network operators,” Corbin stressed.

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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