Govt action needed on trans-Tasman mobile pricing

New Zealand and Australian ICT ministers release joint report proposing a range of measures, including regulatory intervention

The New Zealand and Australian governments are considering regulating the price of tran-Tasman mobile roaming services.

Regulation is one of several options being considered in a draft report released jointly by ICT Minister Amy Adams and her counterpart in Australia, senator Stephen Conroy, who is minister for broadband, communication and the digital economy.

The report is the result of a joint investigation begun in 2009, which Adams credits with reducing trans-Tasman roaming prices.

“New Zealanders have started to enjoy lower roaming prices recently, and there is no doubt that the pressure created by our joint investigation has been a key factor in this reduction,” Adams says.

However Senator Conroy, in his release uses stronger language. “The draft report makes it clear that telecommunications companies are stinging consumers on trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges and that their profit margins are excessive,” says Conroy.

The seven options proposed in the report are:

  1. Keep a watching brief and launch a further investigation if necessary.
  2. Unbundle trans-Tasman retail roaming services from domestic retail mobile services, so that customers could choose one operator for domestic services and another for roaming services.
  3. Require operators to provide mobile local-access services, which enable roamers to act as local users in their destination without having to swap SIM cards and be unreachable on their original phone number.
  4. Impose price caps.
  5. Introduce wholesale terms of access that would be available to a home network seeking to provide trans-Tasman roaming to its customers.
  6. Require mobile operators to provide regulators with wholesale traffic and revenue information on trans-Tasman roaming that would be made public.
  7. Empower regulators, when investigating trans-Tasman roaming services to choose from a range of regulatory measures in options 2-6 above.

The report references the CER trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand and the move to ward a Single Economic Market. “Ultimately, the long-term aim is to have a seamless trans-Tasman business environment in which it is as easy for New Zealand and Australian companies to do business in the other country as it is at home,” the report says.

“It is clear to us that any option that succeeds in lowering voice, SMS and data rates available to trans-Tasman business roamers will help achieve this goal.

Submissions on the draft report are open until September 27. The full report can be read here.

Computerworld has sought comment from Vodafone, 2degrees and Telecom.

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