Hold the phone: ACCC rings in new mobile battle

Telstra CEO Andy Penn.
Telstra CEO Andy Penn. Andrew Lucas Photography

LETTING other carriers piggyback off Telstra's mobile network could stop further expansion of regional mobile networks, Telstra CEO Andy Penn has warned.

But Vodafone Australia chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd said introducing mobile roaming would lead to better competition for regional Queenslanders and more towers in regional areas.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun an inquiry into national mobile roaming that would allow customers of each phone carrier to access the network of their rivals when their one isn't available.

Mr Penn said if the ACCC approved the introduction of national roaming, it could cause Telstra to re-evaluate where they spend money on infrastructure.

"Selfishly we think this would be bad for Telstra, but also we think it would be bad for regional areas," he said.

Mr Penn said national mobile roaming could prevent expansion of the Telstra network in regional areas. He said Telstra's point of difference from its competitors was its network.

"If we're told 'You can build another tower if you like but you have to let your competitors use it' then there's no incentive to invest," he said.

But Mr Lloyd said if the ACCC approved mobile roaming other networks would pay Telstra for the use of their infrastructure.

Mr Lloyd said Vodafone may look to expanding their network into current black spots if they were able to access Telstra's existing coverage.

"At the moment there is no way we can build a network beyond Telstra's. But if this is approved we could use that network and expand beyond," he said.

"Then there is competition to expand into those new areas. Telstra would know if they don't expand into an area we might."

Mr Lloyd said mobile roaming was in place in USA, Canada and New Zealand and had not reduced investment

In announcing the inquiry, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the impact the change could have on new mobile infrastructure was a key concern.

"A particular area of concern for us is whether consumers would, in fact, be disadvantaged if the incentives to invest in expanding the reach of mobile networks were reduced," he said.

The ACCC is expected to release a discussion paper and call for submission on mobile roaming this month.


Topics:  accc mobile coverage roaming telstra vodafone

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