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Roaming ruling retains status quo for mobile users

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to consider innovative ways to increase mobile network competition, following today’s draft decision not to regulate wholesale roaming in Australia.

“As producers of quality produce in a global market, we more than understand the importance of competition,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.

“However, given that in large parts of regional Australia - where farmers live and do their business - there is little or no mobile coverage, our priority has always been ensuring mobile coverage continues to expand."

Domestic mobile roaming is where telecommunications companies can direct their customers’ mobile phone transmissions through another company’s towers and equipment. Telecommunication companies are already free to come to commercial arrangements with each other to share towers, but the ACCC has been considering whether it should make roaming mandatory.

“We understand the gravity of this draft decision and the significant ramifications for the Australian telecommunications market.

“Much of the debate throughout this inquiry has been black and white – increased competition or increased mobile coverage.

“However, this significantly oversimplifies the issues. The NFF does not believe that it needs to be as clear cut as this.

“We propose there are other ways to ensure greater competition amongst mobile providers – strategies such as incentivising infrastructure sharing and co-investment would be effective.

“Today we are calling on the ACCC to consider new ways of creating competition in the Australian mobile network, while preserving the incentive to continually increase coverage," Ms Simson said.

Cotton Australia has also reiterated its call for networks and regulators to boost telecommunications coverage in regional areas, following the ACCC’s draft decision not to declare wholesale domestic mobile roaming.

“While increased competition is important, it is more crucial at this point to bolster the regional network and improve basic telecommunications services, which severely lag metropolitan areas in scale and speed, and aren’t even available to many in the bush,” says Cotton Australia General Manager, Michael Murray.

“Telecommunications connectivity is vitally important for any modern business, and farming operations are no different. Today’s farmers control sophisticated, web-connected machinery but can’t use it to anywhere near its potential because of a lack of network connectivity.”

The NFF is a member of the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition. The Coalition is a group of like-minded organisations who have come together to end the data drought and champion better communications services for consumers and small businesses living in rural, remote or regional areas. Visit the campaign page to register for updates on this issue.

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