Telstra claims regulated roaming would negate $1bn regional spend

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Telstra claims regulated roaming would negate $1bn regional spend

Continues crusade against ACCC declaration.

Telstra's plan to invest almost $1 billion into mobile coverage in remote and rural areas over the next five years would be "uneconomical" if the government decides to regulate domestic mobile roaming, the telco claims.

At its annual investor day yesterday, Telstra revealed intentions to invest $350 million into expanding regional mobile coverage and capacity, $240 million to continue its contribution to the mobile blackspot program, and up to $200 million into new regional co-investments.

However, it claims the money and effort would go to waste if the government regulates mobile roaming in Australia, letting "others piggyback on our network", Telstra networks chief Mike Wright said.

Telstra has been on the warpath since the ACCC announced in September that it would conduct a new inquiry into whether telcos should be made to open up their mobile networks to rivals in areas where they don't have their own infrastructure.

At the time the ACCC said the issue of coverage and a lack of choice in some regional areas had been raised as a particular area of concern. 

Telstra runs the largest regional network nationally by a significant margin.

It is arguing that it should not be penalised for its rivals' decision not to invest in regional areas, and that any incentive for operators to invest in rural and remote regions would be removed if it was forced to allow others to roam onto its mobile network.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn told investors that such a decision would make the telco's almost $1 billion in regional mobile funding over the next five years "uneconomical".

"... forcing Telstra to allow other companies – who have decided not to invest over a number of years to deliver more coverage to their customers – to piggyback on our network infrastructure and spectrum undermines the business case for all these investments. We don’t want that to happen and we don’t believe regional communities do either," Wright wrote in a subsequent blog post.

Telco rival Vodafone has labelled Telstra's response to the ACCC inquiry "bordering on hysterical".
 
In his Charles Todd Oration speech last month, Vodafone CEO Inaki Berroeta claimed there was no evidence that regulating roaming would result in less investment in regional areas.
 
Optus, which boasts the nation's second largest regional mobile network, has backed Telstra's argument that regulated roaming would act as a disincentive for investment.

The ACCC released a discussion paper last month that suggested allowing rival telcos to roam onto Telstra's network would improve customer choice and pricing, as well as competition in the market.

It is expected to announce its draft decision early next year ahead of a full ruling in mid-2017.

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