Telco ten­sion over roam­ing

Pilbara News - - News - Cally Dupe

Tel­stra’s big­gest mo­bile reach is un­der threat and the telco is not happy.

One of its big­gest com­peti­tors, Voda­fone, is push­ing for all car­ri­ers to be able share ac­cess to ex­ist­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture in WA’s bush.

But re­gional com­mu­ni­ties are split over whether its pro­posal to reg­u­late “do­mes­tic roam­ing” would equal more choice for con­sumers or less in­cen­tive for big busi­ness.

Right now, dereg­u­lated roam­ing means Op­tus and Voda­fone pay “high” rental fees to ac­cess Tel­stra tow­ers in re­gional WA.

But the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion will this month de­cide whether it should in­ter­vene and in­tro­duce “reg­u­lated do­mes­tic roam­ing”.

The change would mean the ACCC would de­ter­mine the price Tel­stra charges other ser­vice providers to use its in­fra­struc­ture.

Tel­stra ar­gues it would kill its com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, and in turn, its in­cen­tive to in­vest in the bush. Tel­stra chief sus­tain­abil­ity officer Tim O’Leary said al­low­ing other providers to “pig­gy­back” on its re­gional tow­ers was un­fair.

“Ev­ery busi­ness needs a point of dif­fer­ence, ours is our net­work, peo­ple go with Tel­stra be­cause it’s the most ex­ten­sive net­work in WA,” he said.

“Our view is the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory set­tings pro­mote com­pe­ti­tion and pro­mote in­vest­ment.”

“If you change those set­tings and in­tro­duce reg­u­lated roam­ing, you take away the in­cen­tive to in­vest in the bush.”

Mr O’Leary said in the past decade, 15 per cent of Tel­stra mo­bile net­work in­vest­ment had ser­viced the most re­mote two per cent of WA’s pop­u­la­tion.

But Voda­fone chief strat­egy officer Dan Lloyd said other coun­tries in­clud­ing Canada, the US and New Zealand all had in­ter-car­rier roam­ing.

He said the big­gest in­vestor in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in out­back WA was the Aus­tralian tax­payer.

“Since 2006, Tel­stra has re­ceived around $2 bil­lion in sub­si­dies to build its net­works,” he said.

“As a re­sult of the nat­u­ral mo­nop­oly, well-in­ten­tioned gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies aimed at in­creas­ing cov­er­age in re­gional Aus­tralia in­evitably flow al­most ex­clu­sively to Tel­stra.” An ACCC spokesman said a draft de­ter­mi­na­tion was due by the end of March.

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