There are increasing calls for future mobile coverage funding (such as under the Mobile Black Spot Program) to encourage telecommunications carriers to pay active network shares.
That consensus emerged in submissions published by a Senate inquiry into co-investment in multi-carrier regional mobile infrastructure.
Jason Horley, property and customer engagement manager for tower owner Indara, said at a committee hearing Wednesday that the black spot model, funded by a single carrier to build at one site, has led to patchy service availability.
As a result, rural dwellers often have to carry mobiles from Telstra and Optus in case of a breakdown on a long journey.
Horley also told the committee that the growing demand for connectivity in farm equipment is a new problem: repairing a $750,000 tractor can assume the technician has access to a mobile network.
He said fixing on-farm coverage by enabling autonomous tractors and other robotics could lead to $8 billion in production growth.
Pivotal’s submission to the inquiry indicated that while the carrier may offer colocation at Black Spot-funded sites, it rarely attracts other carriers to the location.
Telstra, which received 80 per cent of the black spot funding, has other carriers on only 35 per cent of the funded towers.
Pivotel would like to see Black Spot funded sites utilize active RAN sharing, but also be open to equipment pooling opportunities.
As Pivotel noted in its submission: “Barriers to the use of active RAN sharing are primarily strategic and commercial; it has been shown that government policy interventions are needed to break down such barriers.
“Pivotal argues that the MNO [mobile network operator] Those responsible for deploying a site subsidized by the public purse must provide active RAN sharing access to other operators on a commercial basis.
Telstra and TPG are also pro-sharing – not surprising as both expect a formal sharing arrangement approved by the ACCC.
TPG wants co-funded mobile infrastructure to be open access in the future.
“We strongly believe that any co-funded mobile infrastructure should be open access. This
For example, any MNO can request to be involved in the design
establishment of a greenfield mobile site; Or an MNO may request to co-locate at a cofunded site on the condition that it is aware of the fact that public funds have been used to build the infrastructure.
“Government-led co-investment projects can also prioritize proactive sharing
Network infrastructure … to drive even greater cost reductions in building mobile network infrastructure.”
Earlier this month, the government indicated that more multi-operator proposals would be submitted for future black spot funding rounds.
Meanwhile, Telstra said “MNO-led active sharing arrangements are a better model for providing multi-carrier regional coverage in a practical and cost-effective manner than alternatives such as neutral host arrangements”.
Support for subsidy models that promote active sharing include industry association Compete, Nokia, the NSW State Government (which supports active sharing through the Active Sharing Partnership Program), the National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).