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Telstra Slams ACCC Inquiry To Determine Mobile Roaming Fate

Telstra has taken the ACCC to task over an inquiry by the Australian competition watchdog into whether it should declare a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service.

The telco giant said if a national roaming service were to be declared, it would mean that the ACCC would set conditions allowing mobile network users to access infrastructure belonging to telecommunications providers other than their own to access coverage.

Tony Warren, executive corporate affairs at Telstra said the inquiry puts the ACCC in a position where it will “fundamentally determine” whether or not the country’s regional population will continue to benefit from infrastructure investment.

“Australia is recognised as being among the best mobile telecommunications environments in the world, which has been the result of sustained investment by multiple mobile network operators,” said Warren. “Where there is lack of choice of operators for regional Australians, it is the result of decisions by our competitors to not invest in those areas.”

Independent analyst Paul Budde said there are three main issues arising from the inquiry including competition, market dominance and underserviced areas.

“Despite all of the regularity activities (including NBN regulations) Telstra remains the dominant player and this works against overall viable competition and in one way or another the ACCC will need to balance this, while mobile and in particular roaming in itself might not need regulations,” Budde told CDN.

“Telstra’s dominance is an issue and mobile roaming regulations could be a way to address at least one element of its market dominance.”

Warren said declaring mobile roaming would stop coverage being a differentiator in the Australian market and therefore, remove the key rationale for investment in regional Australia for all operators.

“Declaration would ensure there is no incentive for any operator to invest for competitive reasons in many regional areas. In contrast, history shows that when declaration is ruled out, investment flows for regional Australians,” he said.

The ACCC said mobile coverage was an increasingly important issue in Australia, specifically in regional areas.

“Consumers are increasingly relying on mobile services and the issue of coverage and a lack of choice in some regional areas is a particular issue that has been raised by a number of groups,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. – Kate Castellari

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