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WA farmers urged to share feedback on regional network sharing arrangement

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Phone towers at Point Quobba, north of Carnarvon, in WA’s Gascoyne region.
Camera IconPhone towers at Point Quobba, north of Carnarvon, in WA’s Gascoyne region. Credit: Phoebe Pin/TheWest

WA farmers are being urged to speak up as the consumer watchdog seeks submissions on how a proposed regional network sharing arrangement would improve telecommunications in the bush.

The TPG Telecom-Telstra regional network sharing arrangement, which would allow providers to “piggyback” off existing Telstra infrastructure, is being considered for approval by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

In a statement released on Tuesday, internet service provider TPG Telecom said the arrangement would “benefit mobile service, choice and competition”, and called on regional West Australians to make a submission.

“We believe the proposed arrangement will be a significant win for rural and regional WA, with far-reaching benefits for all rural and regional Australia,” TPG Telecom spokesman James Rickards said.

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“We are calling on all of regional Australia to have their voices heard and help address the increasing need for greater competition and choice of mobile services throughout the country.”

Submissions can be emailed to mergerauthorisations@accc.gov.au until Friday, October 14.

If approved, the network sharing arrangement would increase the choice of mobile providers from two to three, meaning regional WA would have access to TPG’s brands including Vodafone, iiNet, Internode and felix for the first time.

WAFarmers, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Trucking Association have all backed the proposal.

In its submission to the ACCC, WAFarmers said the State’s farmers were becoming increasingly reliant on telecommunications-linked technology to run and operate their businesses.

“The mobile network is extensively used to transfer mass amounts of data from the plethora of complex machinery on large scale properties,” WAFarmers said.

WAFarmers said the take-up of ag tech depended on high quality connectivity on farms, and along key supply chains to broadacre farmers.

In its preliminary view of the proposed arrangement, the ACCC said it would likely enable TPG to “immediately offer an improved product to customers who value better regional network coverage”.

TPG customers would immediately gain expanded regional coverage on completion of the arrangement, as well as accelerated availability of 4G and 5G mobile services.

In a joint submission, the NFF and the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition said ongoing improvements to telecommunications and connectivity services in regional Australia were vital to advance the sector over the next decade.

The ATA said the arrangement would result in “strong benefits for road transport in the regional coverage zone”.

“Consumers should not have to pay for the construction of a third mobile phone network in the regional coverage zone when a cost-effective alternative exists to better utilise existing equipment and spectrum,” the ATA’s submission stated.

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