The ACCC’s disappointing draft decision on mobile domestic roaming is a missed opportunity for regional Australia. It denies the benefits of increased coverage, competition and choice to Australian mobile customers, especially hundreds of thousands of Australians living in regional and rural areas.
AU Editor's Note: We're running this opinion piece from Vodafone in response to ACCC's decision today to shy away from regulating domestic mobile roaming. We've also reached out to Telstra for its input. — Cam
Too many Australians will continue to be held hostage to Telstra, and will have no choice but to pay Telstra’s mobile premium which totals $1.4 billion per year. Since 2006, Telstra has received around $2 billion in government subsidies and funding to build its regional networks, yet it only spends $150 million per year on mobile in regional areas.
The telecommunications divide between the cities and regional areas will only continue to widen, as no other operator will be able to close the coverage gap between Telstra and the rest of the industry.
Telstra will continue to receive a disproportionate share of taxpayer subsidies, and initiatives such as the Mobile Black Spot Program will not be able to realise their full potential.
The extensive evidence and data put forward by Vodafone and many others to support the case was compelling. Vodafone and several other companies committed to increased regional investment if roaming was implemented. It is disappointing for Australian consumers that a scare campaign with no facts or substance has succeeded.
Monopolies don’t drive investment, competition does. Without domestic roaming, the opportunities for investment in areas where it is uneconomical to build more than one network are very limited.
We strongly disagree with the ACCC’s recommendation, and will work with the ACCC to reconsider its position in its final report.
We struggle to understand how the commission could reach this decision, as when it last reviewed the issue, it concluded that it would be likely to regulate if the industry did not reach commercial agreements.
This debate has always been about the best interest of consumers, especially those in regional Australia. We will continue to invest in sites in regional areas wherever there is a business case for us to do so, and pursue opportunities to drive competition in regional Australia.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has ruled against a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service - which would allow rival telcos to roam using Telstra's network - stating there was "insufficient evidence" a declaration on the service would improve the current state of competition.