Domestic mobile roaming in Australia is officially dead

Angus Kidman 23 October 2017 NEWS

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Mobile networks won't be forced to share access, but other measures to improve coverage in regional areas are being considered.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has officially dumped the idea of "declaring" mobile roaming, meaning that Optus and Vodafone won't be able to roam onto Telstra's more extensive network in regional areas.

However, the regulator says that it is looking at a number of other measures that could improve network accessibility in rural locations, where service is often limited or non-existent.

"The ACCC's inquiry found that declaration would likely not lead to lower prices or better coverage or quality of services for regional Australians," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. The rejection had been flagged in a draft ruling back in May. Telstra had argued against the notion, while Vodafone had advocated for it.

While roaming won't be introduced, that's not quite the end of the story. "We identified a number of issues where we think improvements could be made that would deliver better outcomes for regional consumers," Sims said.

"Better transparency about network coverage and quality, more accountability about network investments and better information for regulatory and policy decision makers are all important."

The key changes which the ACCC is recommending are:

  • All carriers need to offer better information about the extent of their coverage.
  • All carriers need to offer more details about planned network expansions and changes.
  • Making sure that "black spot" programs to improve reception in specific areas don't provide an unfair subsidy to any particular carrier.
  • Making sure that planning regulations don't block multiple carriers from setting up mobile towers in the same location.
  • Examining where the NBN can be used to help extend coverage (by providing a cheaper source of connections for mobile towers in remote areas).

There's no formal timeframe for any of those changes yet.

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