Telstra, Optus, TPG Telecom advised to make coverage maps directly comparable

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Telstra, Optus, TPG Telecom advised to make coverage maps directly comparable

Using a standard set of underlying assumptions.

Australia’s mobile telcos have been asked to come up with a standard way to determine the “predicted coverage” of their networks to make comparisons easier and improve safety outcomes for regional and remote residents.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) flagged in October that it wanted a way to compare the coverage maps of different cellular telcos.

It said at the time that “underlying assumptions used in producing the coverage maps may differ across mobile network operators”, which made “direct comparison of coverage maps … not feasible or reliable.”

That process is still underway, but in an inaugural mobile infrastructure report [pdf] released Thursday, the ACCC indicated it wanted the industry to come together and start work merging the different assumptions that underpinned their respective coverage maps.

“Industry should collaborate on the development of a common set of assumptions for predicting [mobile] coverage,” the commission said.

“In the absence of [an] industry-led process, it may be necessary for the government and regulators to prescribe these assumptions to address the issue.”

The lack of comparison possible between the different coverage maps of Telstra, Optus and TPG made the ACCC's own job difficult in compiling the infrastructure report.

“The [operators] have said that they may change some of the input assumptions for predicting coverage over time,” the ACCC said.

“This means that large coverage changes shown by the coverage maps and analysis from year to year may not necessarily reflect an actual increase in coverage but may be a result of a  change in an input assumption.”

However, the ACCC said it also wanted consumers to be able to compare the coverage of different telcos more easily, and be sure that they were buying a service that would actually work.

“In the mobile market, the operators compete on coverage and consumers make purchasing decisions based on coverage,” the ACCC said.

“Coverage information is particularly critical for regional communities. 

“Many regional consumers have a limited choice of networks and need to know if they will have coverage at home, on properties or along regular transit corridors. This is for both connection and for safety purposes. 

“The availability of comparable coverage information will enable consumers, particularly in regional areas, to make informed choices and promote competition in the market.”

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