At the Telecom results briefing this morning acting CEO Chris Quin declined to comment on how much of the telco's revenue is made on the back of roaming costs incurred by customers overseas.
He says roaming prices have fallen in the past few years. Services that warn customers they are reaching their data limit, or cap roaming charges, have alleviated customer fear of "bill-shock". He added there has not been an incident at Telecom for some months.
"We would prefer commercially driven outcomes, we generally find those to be more sustainable," says Quin. "However we accept this issue has focus, we will work with what ever outcome is reached, we will work with our customers."
As yet Telecom has not made any announcements on whether it will reduce Australian roaming charges to 50c per MB, as Vodafone did yesterday.
Trans-Tasman mobile roaming pricing is an issue for Australians, not New Zealanders says 2degrees director of corporate affairs Mat Bolland.
Bolland was responding to a draft report, released yesterday by ICT Minister Amy Adams and her counterpart in Australia, Senator Stephen Conroy, which suggests government action is required to reduce roaming prices.
“The highest price you can pay in Australia with 2degrees is 95c a MB. That’s out of any bundle. You step off the plane in Sydney and you turn your phone on and you start using your phone data – 95c is the most per MB. If you’re an Australian customer coming to NZ and you get off the plane, the cheapest rate any of the providers will charge you is $10.24 a MB,” Bolland says.
Bolland says the rate that New Zealanders pay for data when roaming in Australia is less than the regulated rate in Europe, which is 70c Euro, or $1.08, he says.
“It looks like Australian customers have got something to be concerned about, but if you wanted to do anything about pricing in New Zealand, deal with the on net/off net issue," says Bolland. 2degrees is seeking regulatory intervention that would mean customers calling different networks wouldn’t be charged different rates.
Vodafone responded to the draft report by sending out a press release late yesterday announcing that local customers could roam in Australia for 50c a MB.
Vodafone general manager for corporate affairs Tom Chignell told Computerworld that the company favours the first option in the report issued by Adams and Conroy. That option, to keep a watching brief, is the least intrusive.
“It simply isn’t clear what problem there is to solve if these trends continue – competition is delivering," Chignell says. "Given the level of competition, we are far more confident that prices will continue to reduce than the paper suggests. MBIE and DBCDE [New Zealand and Australian agencies which co-authored the report] suggest that price changes have only come about from government investigation – the analysis simply doesn’t support that assertion.”
Yesterday Senator Conroy blasted the telcos, claiming that "profit margins are excessive", so what was Chignell’s response?
“Rates for Australians to roam in New Zealand appear to be more expensive generally - we can only assume he was referring to Australians visiting New Zealand,” Chignell says.
The paper notes that Vodafone may “enjoy an artificially strong position” when it comes to benefiting from Australian mobile customers roaming in New Zealand. Chignell notes that the company has a presence on both sides of the Tasman, but that it “aggressively competes for wholesale inbound traffic from all Australian carriers”.
TUANZ questions why roaming exists
Meanwhile TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen says the entire concept of roaming should be scrapped.
"I think the whole 'roaming' model needs to change significantly. I'd like to see roaming disappear as a concept and us move to simply buying services from our telcos and using them anywhere," he says.
"This is starting to happen in Europe and it's something INTUG [the international users group] is pushing for - buy services in the UK and take them with you/use them in Spain or Germany... Leave it to the telcos to work out behind the scenes how to share that revenue. The alternative is to simply nibble away at the problem for the next few years and I don't think customers will put up with it, given the increase in smartphone use."
Govt report a challenge - Telecom
Telecom responded to Computerworld’s enquiries by noting that prices have dropped in recent years.
“Even so we recognise the industry needs to do more to deliver a better customer experience," says a Telecom spokesperson. "We’ll take up this challenge from Government to deliver simpler, sharper pricing for our customers roaming to Australia.”