No government intervention is needed to improve mobile network performance in Australia, according to Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) president Chris Althaus.
“The competitive tension in the mobile sector will ensure that network issues remain a high profile part of the industry’s marketing toolkit,” he said after a mobile network performance forum hosted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
“The signs are good and we expect them to continue to keep improving as a direct result of industry’s ongoing heavy investment in both networks, technology and customer service – a reflection of the market/competition dynamic.
“From industry’s perspective there is no case for market intervention given the current signals.”
The mobile industry has invested more than $10 billion in the past two years on mobile networks, spectrum purchases and spectrum licence fees to meet consumer demand and expectations, Althaus said. Recent statistics showing a reduction in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) showed the investment is having positive results, he said.
However, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said at the forum that the government can enhance mobile coverage through greater monitoring of industry and by opening the NBN to mobile operators for backhaul.
Corbin urged ACMA to “conduct regular monitoring and reporting of coverage, including potentially supporting an independent and trustworthy crowd-sourced app to help consumers make better choices”.
In addition, she said industry should step up its game by publishing better coverage maps and training staff at the point of sale to verify coverage exists where the consumer intends to use their device.
“Independent testing by the Digital Economy Group has found Optus maps are ‘optimistic’ when compared with the actual user experience, while Telstra could refine the presentation of its maps and Vodafone maps were the best quality out of the major providers,” she said.
“Providers should aim for a gold standard for customer information on coverage which would include transparency around real-world indoor/outdoor coverage, the number of base stations and coverage information specific to the consumer’s handset.”
Mobile coverage remains a problem for many Australian consumers, Corbin said.
“Lacklustre mobile coverage was the number one issue in all top 10 complaint postcodes to the TIO,” she said.
“Consumers experience drop outs in so many parts of Australia. The problem is not limited to consumers in rural and remote areas, who are accustomed to patchy or no mobile coverage, but also many urban and regional consumers.”