Developments in mobile telecommunications will deliver Australia a $12 billion windfall in productivity benefits by 2025, according to a new report from Deloitte Access Economics.
The report, which was commissioned by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, calls for government policy settings to be reviewed to allow for the staged expansion of spectrum resources to mobile broadband.
Malcolm Turnbull attended the launch of the report, and today used his Twitter account to promote it, calling it “a very interesting paper on economic impacts of mobile wireless”.
The shadow communications and broadband minister is a big fan of mobile telecommunications, often advocating mobile networks as a viable alternative to the fixed wireless solution provided by the NBN.
But the Deloitte report argues convergence in devices will drive mobile and fixed networks, including the NBN, to become increasingly interdependent.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde took it a step further. He said the integration of fixed and mobile broadband makes it impossible to fairly split the productivity benefits delivered by mobile technology from the benefits delivered by fixed line services.
He pointed out the often overlooked statistic that 80 percent of mobile broadband use is done through wifi connections to a fixed network.
“You can’t look at mobile in isolation. It is the telecommunications infrastructure that boosts productivity, and part of that is mobile and part of it is fixed.”
Budde said the issue of spectrum also required a simultaneous focus on fixed and mobile.
“We already know that the spectrum that will be launched this year will only last us for 3-5 years and we don’t yet have any solution.
“The auctions are one step but there has to be a much tighter integration of fixed and mobile in order to make this work.”
He added that other solutions were required because Australia would probably never have enough spectrum.
Spectrum is critical to productivity and economic growth, said John O’Mahony, associate director at Deloitte Access Economics.
“We’ve got a forecast of a 14 fold increase in mobile data use over the next five years, and having access to spectrum is going to be very important to that.”
But despite mobile growth boosting productivity, via both labour efficiency and capital productivity, the Deloitte report said the medium term outlook for the telecommunications industry is unusually uncertain.
Strong competition from over-the-top operators is likely to change industry dynamics, with carriers investing more in infrastructure to support data usage growth, but not making up for it in revenue growth.
“There will be a lot more data growth than revenue growth,” O’Mahony said.
“The biggest beneficiaries are consumers - they’re going to get more bang for their buck. The challenge is for the sector to develop business models that can build value for shareholders.”
Budde said such issues, including spectrum, would eventually lead to “an NBN way of looking at mobile”.
“Does it make sense to have three mobile network operators?”