Whilst Australia’s major centres are well served by three competing mobile networks it’s a very different story in regional Australia. Telstra claims its network covers 2.3 million square kilometres, whilst nearest rival Optus has a footprint of just 1 million.
The government’s Mobile Coverage Programme has been accepting submissions from the industry as to how it can effectively spend $100 million to extend the reach of mobile coverage, whilst providing adequate competition.
Matthew Lobb, Vodafone’s GM for Industry Strategy and Public Policy, welcomes the government’s plans. “Previous programmes have had a winner takes all approach,” he says in this week’s CrossTalk. This misses out on the opportunity for other carriers to make investment in an area.
The answer could be for open access to shared infrastructure – such as mobile towers – co-funded by the government. Or it could involve the NBN. “The previous government had a very fixed, blinkered view of what NBNCo could do with its wireless network,” says Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary to the minister for communications. He says the new government is open to more possibilities. Could those possibilities create effective competition in those vast parts of the country where Telstra is currently the only mobile provider?