Senator Bridget McKenzie

April 1, 2022

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will conduct a public inquiry into access to regional mobile towers and the feasibility of providing “roaming” during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review had highlighted issues that needed to be addressed.

“The ACCC will call for submissions from a range of parties, including the organisations that provide towers and associated infrastructure, and the organisations that use the towers to provide services to Australians,” the Minister said.

“A factor that increases the need for this review is that in the last year both Telstra and Optus have sold part ownership of their tower networks to third parties.

“It is important to consider the impact of this change in ownership on the incentives of the tower ownership businesses when it comes to providing access to their towers and the charges levied.”

The inquiry will look at the costs of providing towers and associated infrastructure, including land access, and how these translate into the fee structures for firms interested in accessing towers to provide mobile and other wireless services.

It will also consider the factors important for industry in deciding whether to invest in towers and provide better mobile coverage.

Regional Communications Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie said the Review had also recommended the Federal Government examine the feasibility of providing mobile roaming during natural disasters and other emergencies.

“The inquiry will be specifically about whether roaming can be activated in an area where there is a disaster or other emergencies, regardless of which telco people may be using.

“This could help our regional communities stay safe, stay connected to business and to loved ones during natural disasters and other emergencies.

“The ACCC will consider the technical feasibility of providing roaming during these circumstances, as well as the business systems and processes that would be required, and the time and cost involved.”

The ACCC inquiry will start before July 1 and must report within 12 months.

It will publish a draft report and seek submissions on that report before providing its final report to the Minister.

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