Member for Agricultural Region Martin Aldridge MLC has used a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Domestic Mobile Roaming Declaration Inquiry to express caution about any move to force access to existing mobile networks.
The ACCC inquiry was initiated to consider the introduction of regulated inter-carrier roaming, however Mr Aldridge said the changes would discourage telecommunications service providers to invest in regional WA.
Telstra is currently the largest provider in the country covering more than 1 million square kilometres in regional WA alone.
The proposition under consideration by the ACCC would see smaller providers like Optus and Vodafone having access to the infrastructure built by Telstra which Mr Aldridge believes would result in poor outcomes for regional Australia.
“Under the roaming declaration I worry providers will no longer seek to expand their coverage out of the fear that any new investment would become too easily available to their competitors,” Mr Aldridge said.
“Telstra will have little incentive to improve its coverage if it is bearing the costs of development and infrastructure maintenance while other providers reap the benefits after spending nothing on the project.”
Furthermore, Mr Aldridge said the changes would create disincentives for technological advancement in the telecommunications industry.
“The exclusive use of a new technology is a driving incentive behind investment and innovation.
“In the absence of exclusivity there will not be a desire to commit resources to expand their services or improve quality.”
Mr Aldridge urged the ACCC to fully consider the impact of declared roaming on regional customers as it is likely to have a perverse outcome to what is desired.
“All Australians, regardless of where they live should have access to reliable and affordable telecommunications,” Mr Aldridge said.
“While network roaming may at first glance seem attractive to customers, the reality is that Telstra is the only network that has truly invested in their regional network,” Mr Aldridge said.
“I am a big advocate of coverage over competition, with most living in regional Western Australia simply wanting network coverage that works when they need it.
“Competition will be driven by the masses in metropolitan markets and as a result of universal pricing regional customers will benefit.”