TPG Telecom says the premature shutdown of 3G would impact regional communities. FILE PIC
TPG Telecom says the premature shutdown of 3G would impact regional communities. FILE PIC

Change that could hurt rural Australia

A major telecommunications company has vowed to keep the Vodafone 3G network running "for years to come", warning a premature shutdown could leave regional communities in the lurch.

TPG Telecom said many people in regional Australia relied on 3G for voice calls, messaging and basic data services, as well as functions like connecting farm sensors to monitor water and weather.

The telco, formed by the merger of TPG and Vodafone Hutchison Australia last year, has called on the federal government to use its upcoming auction of the 900MHz spectrum to ensure mobile carriers committed to providing 3G can continue to do so.

Spectrum is needed to send and receive radio signals between a mobile device and the network.

TPG said it "remained committed" to keeping its 3G service running if the spectrum needed could be purchased at a reasonable price.

It called on the government to match the price of a recent spectrum allocation offer to state and territory governments for emergency services.

Last year, Telstra announced it would shut down its 3G mobile network in 2024, saying it planned to introduce 4G to all areas previously solely covered by 3G by that time.

TPG Telecom Group spokesman Trent Czinner said 5G was exciting but not all Australians could enjoy its benefits yet.

"To prematurely shut down the 3G network would only increase the digital divide between regional and urban Australia and could hurt local businesses that still rely on it," he said.

"If a telco wishes to close their 3G network then that is a commercial decision for them.

"But it is only right that those mobile carriers still committed to providing 3G services, and all the costs that come with that, are supported in their efforts to provide quality services for as long as regional consumers and businesses need them."

Queensland's Balonne Shire Mayor Samantha O'Toole said even though there were recent mobile tower upgrades, there was far less coverage on the 4G network across the entire council area compared to 3G.

She said if the 3G service was shut down, it would impact the 4887 people living there as well as rural landowners around the shire.

"That's the only mobile service that we have there so we've got a school, a rural health service which is reliant on the Royal Flying Doctors, several businesses that are in the town," Ms O'Toole said.

"Without 3G networks that makes it very difficult for all of those businesses and that school to operate."

She noted her council area was not the only one that would be impacted.

"Our situation in Balonne would be replicated right throughout Western Queensland and is definitely not unique.

"The turn off of the network would have a profound impact in western areas."

TPG's 3G network covers nearly 96 per cent of the population and has about 600,000 devices currently relying on it.

Originally published as Change that could hurt rural Australia



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