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ACCC calls for mobile roaming submissions

AAP logoAAP 26/10/2016 Lilly Vitorovich

The competition watchdog wants to hear from telcos and consumers as it investigates possible regulations that would allow mobile customers to roam onto a rival carrier's network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released a 52-page discussion paper analysing a domestic mobile roaming service, which would allow consumers to access another network when out of the coverage area of their provider.

The ACCC is seeking views on current mobile services competition and whether there are barriers to extending mobile networks in regional Australia.

They also want to hear about the effect on competition of regulating mobile roaming services; investment on networks since its last inquiry in 2005; the effect regulation may have on ther incentive to invest in networks, and the importance of geographic coverage for consumers and providers to compete.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it will consider whether regulation will "benefit competition and consumers" in the long term.

Telstra and Optus - the two dominate telcos in Australia - are against mobile roaming regulation, arguing that it will hurt network investment across the country.

But the country's third biggest player, Vodafone, is in favour, saying roaming is regulated in other western countries with large land mass and areas of low population density..

Telstra earlier this month stepped up its attack against regulation, warning that the move would hurt its profit and network investment across regional Australia.

"Why would anyone invest in maintaining or upgrading their regional networks when they can hitch a ride on someone else's network and there is no longer any competitive differentiation from greater network coverage?" chairman John Mullen told shareholders at the group's annual general meeting in Sydney.

Telstra currently sells access to parts of its network at negotiated prices, and two previous inquiries by the ACCC have found that access didn't need to be regulated.

However, Vodaone and smaller telcos think Telstra's access prices are too high and the ACCC last month launched a third inquiry.

Parties have until November 25 to lodge their submissions with the ACCC. Once the draft decision is announced in early 2017, a final decision will be announced in the first half of the year.

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