Vodafone calls for better mobile service for rural Australia

17 March 2014

The upside to receiving unreasonable telco service is that you can always take your business somewhere else. But for Australians living outside metropolitan areas where mobile coverage is limited, sometimes that choice is non-existent.

According to the in-no-way-surprising results of a Vodafone-commissioned survey of rural Australians, more than 80% of mobile phone users in regional areas desperately want more choice when it comes to finding a telco.

The Telecommunications in Regional Australia report, conducted by Empirica Research, compiled the answers of one thousand respondents living in rural locations with a population of 100,000 people or less.

Overall, the study found that customers in these areas were crying out for more industry competition and better service from all of Australia’s mobile networks.

Although coverage is a priority for Australians living outside of major cities, the study found that many phone owners would also like to be able to factor pricing and customer service into their decision when choosing a mobile provider.

As a possible solution to the problem, 8 out of 10 respondents agreed that the Federal Government should use its $100 million mobile blackspot funding to boost the rural coverage of all major Australian networks.

Three-quarters of those surveyed were against the funds going to just one mobile provider, as has occurred previously.

Rural Australia needs NBN Co

The study also showed increased support for NBN Co in rural areas. As NBN Co already has plans to build over 2000 new wireless towers Australia-wide, 80% of those surveyed would like to see these towers also be used to deliver mobile service in areas with spotty network coverage.

Vodafone’s General Manager of Public Policy, Matthew Lobb, said that the response showed an opportunity for the NBN to play a key role in improving mobile services outside the major cities, and offer increased resources to Australians living in more isolated areas.

The report also speculated that any additional costs for NBN Co would be offset by revenue generated from charging access fees to mobile providers using the wireless towers.

With the majority of respondents calling for change, the survey shows that regional Australia is growing increasingly frustrated with the so-called 'monopoly' that comes from having one major provider dominating network coverage (no prizes for guessing the telco in question).

The good news is country Aussies aren't on their own, with Vodafone pledging to "...invest and work with Government and industry partners” to improve coverage and competition in parts of the country that are frequently forgotten by mobile providers.

Image credit: Brian Yap at Flickr

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