Telstra promises boost to 4G coverage

If the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) confirms its draft decision to not declare a wholesale mobile roaming service, Telstra “will immediately move to expand our 4G coverage to reach 99 per cent of the population by later this year,” the telco’s CEO, Andrew Penn, said today.

If ACCC decided to push ahead with declaring a service, Telstra would be forced to open its network to competing mobile network operators in regional areas.

Not declaring a service “paves the way for ongoing investment in the coming years that would see an additional 1.4 million square kilometres of 4G coverage for regional and rural Australia,” Penn said.

“This means that about 600 base stations will be upgraded from 3G to 4G giving the Australian population access to a world leading 4G network.”

The ACCC decision was also welcomed by Optus and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

“Optus is very pleased with the ACCC’s draft decision not to declare mobile domestic roaming,” Optus head of regulatory affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

“The mobile sector has been the stand-out success story in telecommunications competition.

“That success has been built on policy settings that have encouraged significant investment in infrastructure, technology and services. Optus invested over $6 billion in its mobile network since 2009.”

“ACCAN is a strong advocate for better mobile coverage and improved competition in regional and rural areas,” ACCAN’s CEO, Teresa Corbin, said.

“Consumers and small businesses in regional, rural and remote areas want additional coverage where they live, work and travel. It’s unclear whether declaring domestic mobile roaming would achieve this.”

The advocacy group is calling for additional rounds of the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot Program to extend mobile coverage.

The draft decision met with a frostier reception from Vodafone, TPG and the Competitive Carriers’ Coalition (CCC).

Vodafone said this morning it “struggled to understand” how the ACCC reached its conclusions.

“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,” the telco said in a statement.

A statement from TPG which is spending $1.9 billion on building a mobile network said that the telco “notes” the decision.

In a statement the company said: “TPG’s submissions to the ACCC noted the very significant barriers to entry into the market for mobile telecommunications services in Australia and suggested that domestic mobile roaming would be extremely beneficial for end users across Australia.

“Regulators around the world have taken steps such as declaring roaming to support fourth entrants who, on entry, have delivered innovative services and reduced costs for consumers in their countries.”

“We are somewhat surprised at the competition regulator’s decision not to provide support for competition,” TPG’s general counsel, Tony Moffatt, said.

“However, TPG has already jumped one of the large barriers to entry into the mobile market and expects to be a very successful and innovative competitor. As a result of the draft decision, some consumers may just have to live without the benefits of our competitive force.”

The CCC said that the “ACCC draft decision to continue its hands-off approach to national mobile competition is a perfect example of the old adage that insanity is continuing to do the same thing again and again expecting a different result. Or in the ACCC’s case, continuing to do nothing and expecting by some magic Telstra will stop using its monopoly power to over-charge consumers and undermine national telecoms competition.”

The statement from the group added: “The ACCC has yet again confused the interests of Telstra’s shareholders – who immediately benefited from a five percent share price increase when the shock do-nothing decision was announced – with the interests of Australian consumers and tax payers, who pay billions of dollars in price premiums and investment subsidies to Telstra.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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