Vodafone in WA bush push

Vodafone Australia is lobbying the Federal Government to help break Telstra's stranglehold over the regional mobile phone market in WA, urging the coalition to open up a flagged $100 million investment in mobile black spots to a "co-investment" strategy.

In what it hopes is the trigger for a greater footprint in regional WA and remote locations across the country, Vodafone wants an independent infrastructure provider to build new mobile towers in the bush, giving mobile carriers an option to invest and then gain access.

The Federal Government's black spot policy - an election promise - will see the coalition spend $80 million over four years to improve mobile coverage along major roads and in small communities by funding 300 new or upgraded mobile base stations across Australia.

An extra $20 million will go to boost coverage in holiday communities and areas "with unique coverage problems".

Submissions from the major mobile carriers on how the funds should be spent are expected to be released next week.

Optus is understood to support Vodafone's push on the issue and is lobbying for a "co-build model that encourages multiple operators to commit to sharing key passive costs before a site is built".

Through its historic presence in the bush, Telstra has benefited from regional network expansions because it is uneconomical for Optus or Vodafone to build rival infrastructure.

Optus and Vodafone highlighted how Telstra received $39.2 million of Royalties for Regions funding in 2012 to help expand its - and WA's - mobile network by 22 per cent.

"We (Vodafone) are at a loss to understand why programs such as these, which benefit customers of only one provider, could possibly be deemed a success," Vodafone Australia public policy general manager Matthew Lobb said.

"By harnessing the investment opportunities of the entire industry with the support of government funding for black spots, there are opportunities to deliver more coverage and more choice for regional consumers."

Vodafone - which is sidelined by customers because of its poor regional coverage in WA - last month released research showing 83 per cent of regional Australians wanted a choice of provider.

The West Australian

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