The ACCC has ruled it will not declare domestic mobile roaming – a move which would force all telcos, including Telstra and Optus, to share their networks with competitors, for a price set by the regulator.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims states:
“The ACCC’s inquiry found that declaration would likely not lead to lower prices or better coverage or quality of services for regional Australians”.
Reports state Vodafone has challenged the ACCC’s draft ruling, to which the Federal Court will rule on imminently.
Chief Strategy Officer at Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Dan Lloyd, states the decision is not in the best interests of regional Australians:
“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. This decision rings alarm bells for regional communities”
Mr Loyd also states that it is notable the regulator will not intervene in a marketplace dominated by Telstra:
“It’s inexplicable that the ACCC thinks that a taxpayer subsidised regional mobile monopoly is reasonably effective competition when we provided compelling evidence that this is costing Australia up to $1.4 billion a year”.
The regulator has, however, requested a number of measures to improve mobile coverage for regional Australians.
Mr Sims states of the improvement needed:
“We identified a number of issues where we think improvements could be made that would deliver better outcomes for regional consumers. Better transparency about network coverage and quality, more accountability about network investments and better information for regulatory and policy decision makers are all important”.
Beginning in 2016, the ACCC engaged in discussions with government departments and industry personnel to address issued identified for regional Australian mobile consumers.
Mr Sims affirms the ACCC’s decision to rule ‘no’ on domestic mobile roaming, concerning its effect on regional individuals:
“Declaration could actually harm the interests of consumers by undermining the incentives of mobile operators to make investments to compete with each other in regional areas”
“While geographic coverage is important to many consumers, it is not the only factor people consider when choosing their provider. Many Australians actually prefer Telstra in areas where there is competing coverage due to the quality of the network”.
Optus’ Vice President of Regulatory and Public Affairs, Andrew Sheridan, has welcomed the decision:
“This investment will improve the choice and experience for regional consumers and businesses. We believe the alternative regulatory measures outlined by the ACCC provide an appropriate platform for these significant investments to be pushed out into the more remote regional communities”.