Vodafone Australia CEO Iñaki Berroeta isn’t shy in coming forward about his thoughts and views on the Australian telecommunications landscape and this morning he unleashed a solid attack on Telstra’s partly government funded position as a regional player and cast some doubt over the future of 5G in our regional areas.
Speaking at the annual CommsDay Summit in Sydney Berroeta talked candidly about his views on a range of topics, but not just through criticism and attacks, he also spoke about the need for industry collaboration and discussion to move forward on the issues.
Regional Mobile Coverage
At the outset, it should be clear, Vodafone is hoping to get access to the Telstra network for its customers through what’s called Domestic Roaming. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission are discussing this at the moment and of course, Vodafone are hoping they determine that the carriers should work together.
But he raises some interesting points outside of that too. The Federal Government’s Mobile Blackspot Program was setup to provide funding to the Telcos to establish mobile towers in some of the most remote places in Australia. It provides millions of dollars to see mobile access in places never seen before.
The problem is – it’s one telco at a time. According to Berroeta, less than ten percent of these towers are co-located, meaning the government is funding one telco to get more coverage. It should be noted that Vodafone and Optus are both recipients of this funding, but in reality Telstra has had around 75% of the funding.
Shouldn’t our taxes fund coverage on all three networks?
Berroeta’s point grows stronger when he points out that since 2006 Telstra have received $2,000,000,000 (Billion) in government subsidies, and today receives $1 million per day under the Universal Service Obligation funding.
If our taxes paid for the Telstra network when it was government owned, and support it in any way still today – should it not be the case that Rural consumers have choice? Why should someone in Grong Grong not get to choose between Vodafone, Telstra, Optus and the range of low cost carriers off those networks?
Telstra would likely argue that their investment in rural Australia by far and away outstrips any funding they get, and has done so for many years since it was sold off.
Whatever the case, Vodafone’s CEO seems to be passionately representing for the Australian people – something that will go down well.
NBN Holding Back 5G?
In the same speech Iñaki Berroeta made some observations about the 3.4 and 3.7HGz spectrum bands. He cites these as critical to Australia being aligned with the international telcos on the fast approaching move to 5G.
He even points out and supports Telstra’s submission in 2014 to the Government on this issue.
And the issue is – the NBN is using that spectrum for it’s Fixed Wireless broadband delivery to rural areas and areas where Cable cannot be efficiently laid.
Not keen to implicate the NBN, Berroeta doesn’t even mention those three letters or words, but what he does do is call for Industry and Government collaboration and discussion on forming a new future for spectrum availability to account for what will be the biggest leap forward in mobile communications in a very long time – 5G.