Warning on ru­ral mo­bile

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

PRO­POSED changes could have dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on mo­bile phone cov­er­age and black spots in re­gional Tas­ma­nia, Tel­stra has warned.

An Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion in­quiry into mo­bile roam­ing is look­ing at whether Tel­stra tow­ers should be made avail­able to com­peti­tors such as Op­tus and Voda­fone in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas.

The ACCC launched a dis­cus­sion pa­per in Septem­ber and a draft de­ci­sion is ex­pected by early next year.

But Tel­stra is ve­he­mently op­posed, say­ing the move would pre­vent in­vest­ment in re­gional cov­er­age at a time when it has been rapidly ex­pand­ing its mo­bile cov­er­age.

“Reg­u­lated roam­ing would mean our com­peti­tors may only have to pay a tiny amount to use a net­work we have spent bil­lions of dol­lars build­ing,” a Tel­stra spokesman said.

He said reg­u­lated roam­ing would not ex­pand mo­bile cov­er­age at all.

The ACCC pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered mo­bile roam­ing in re­gional ar­eas in 1998 and 2005.

Tel­stra said the com­pany had in­vested heav­ily in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas. In Tas­ma­nia, work has started on up to 13 mo­bile-phone tow­ers in re­mote ar­eas but none are yet in oper­a­tion.

Tel­stra said over the past 10 years, 15 per cent of its in­vest­ment in the mo­bile net­work went the most re­mote 2 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ca­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Peter Skillern said his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s sub­mis­sion would fo­cus on the need for con­tin­ued in­vest­ment.

“There is a risk that if its open slather for all tel­cos when some­body builds a tower that could take away the in­cen­tive to in­vest,” Mr Skillern said.

“Any­thing that may pre­vent in­vest­ment would not be pos­i­tive.”

He said black spots were a prob­lem but the TFGA needed to con­sider the best way of ad­dress­ing them ad­dressed.

Ac­cess to a roam­ing ser­vice would en­able mo­bile-ser­vice providers to of­fer cov­er­age in ar­eas where they don’t have their own net­work.

The ACCC could also set rates for ac­cess.

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