Australia has experienced crucial and hard-fought telecommunications and broadband reforms over the past five years, but now is the time for the next step in injecting competitive rigour, according to industry lobby group, the Competitive Carriers’ Coalition.
The Competitive Carriers’ Coalition – which represents telcos such as Macquarie Telecom, iiNet, Vodafone, AAPT, NextGen Network, Adam Internet, and Transact – said in a statement that although the telco industry has introduced initiatives such as the NBN and improved powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Federal Government and ACCC need to step up in a post NBN world.
It attributed a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which found that Australia is continuing to fall on the global broadband league table – from ranking 17 in 2009 to ranking 21 in 2011.
It claimed that as communications competition in Australia has stagnated, consumers are left with uncompetitive prices and services, and a need for an urgent shot of adrenaline to lift Australia to where it had to be.
For that to happen, the Federal Government needs to review the adequacy of policy in a post NBN, post convergence world, and the ACCC to take a strong line in addressing prices that remain out of line with international benchmarks, the coalition said.
Macquarie Telecom CEO, David Tudehope, said the shift to ubiquitous broadband and the growth of Cloud computing facilitated by the NBN was the biggest industry “re-set” in the 21 years since he founded his company.
But, according to Tudehope, Telstra retains market power in Australia to such an extent that it is able to resist many of the forces reshaping the industry in other parts of the world.
iiNet CEO, Michael Malone, mentioned that it is the consumers who stand to gain most from a level playing field as customer service and innovation will be “the best ground on which communications companies should fight”.
“When you take away the ability to differentiate on the cost of access to monopoly infrastructure, the only real way to differentiate is on how happy your customers are to recommend you to their family and friends,” he said.
Vodafone Australia CEO, Bill Morrow, claimed the telecommunications industry had reached a critical cross road and must work with policymakers to sort out structural limitations in order to advance to the next level of macro-economic and social benefit that will come from the digital revolution.
“Fixed and mobile communications have been transformed over the past five years.
“We need to ensure that we have the right policy settings to deliver coverage, customer choice, and innovation to all Australians, especially those in regional areas who, for too long, have paid far more to receive far less in coverage and service,” Morrow said.
The Competitive Carriers’ Coalition highlighted that there needs to be a number of initiatives going into an NBN enabled world, which include:
- An introduction of a comprehensive review post-election to maximise the competitive environment
- Policies and regulations that drive infrastructure sharing, especially within regional and remote areas
- Consistent regulation of all bottleneck network elements and a holistic price setting for basic services