Telco tension over roaming
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.