Mobile coverage to regional Australia has increased incrementally since the Regional Telecommunications Inquiry (RTI) was conducted. An estimated 98 per cent of the Australian population had access to a terrestrial mobile network at the end of June 2005. This includes a large proportion of people living or working in rural and remote areas. The structure of the industry supplying mobile services has remained relatively stable since the RTI reported in 2002, in contrast with the supply of fixed voice and broadband services. However, the availability of higher bandwidth and value-added services has increased with the roll-out of third-generation (3G) networks and with upgrades to existing global system for mobiles (GSM) and code division multiple access (CDMA) mobile networks. Yet despite the availability of these services to a large proportion of the population, the market for mobile data is still in its infancy. This chapter examines the supply and take-up of mobile services and the expansion of existing mobile networks into regional and remote areas through government programs. It also profiles the emergence of new or enhanced networks offering valueadded mobile services.
• • • Mobile networks and services supplied over those networks have expanded since the RTI reported⎯in terms of both coverage and the range of value-added services on offer. With 18.42 million mobile services in operation at the end of June 2005, mobile service penetration (mobile phone service per head of population) in Australia is around 90 per cent, up from 72 per cent in June 2003. As growth in subscriber numbers plateaus, value-added services are increasingly being seen as a potentially significant revenue stream, which is driving the roll-out of 3G networks, as well as the provision of higher bandwidth services on existing mobile networks. The availability of mobile services in regional areas has been facilitated by government programs that have provided funding for new or improved terrestrial mobile coverage to regional towns and highways across Australia, and funding for consumer subsidies towards the purchase of satellite mobile phones.
Supply of mobile services
Supply arrangements for mobile services have remained relatively stable since 2002. At 30 June 2005, there were four mobile carriers⎯Hutchison, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone⎯that operate and own six terrestrial mobile networks. The terrestrial mobile networks comprise three GSM networks, two CDMA networks and one wideband CDMA (WCDMA) network. The terrestrial networks are supplemented by mobile satellite services provided by Iridium, Globalstar, Mobilesat and InmarSat. Resellers (mobile virtual network operators and retailers) of mobile services occupy an important place in the mobiles market, but are not the central focus of this chapter because it is the mobile carriers, rather than the resellers, that drive infrastructure 24
Australian Communications and Media Authority November 2005
development and therefore changes in the availability of services supplied over mobile networks. However, a number of factors are driving changes in the geographic availability of mobile services, in addition to changes in the type and availability of higher bandwidth services provided across the different mobile networks. Mobile take-up The supply of mobile services has been driven by the need to develop new applications for an existing customer base as the take-up of mobile services slows, and the expansion of terrestrial mobile networks covers an estimated 98 per cent of the Australian population. As with fixed voice and broadband services, the period since 2002 has seen ongoing investment in higher bandwidth services supplied across mobile networks. Customer take-up Consumer take-up of mobile services has continued to grow strongly since 2002, although overall growth in subscriber numbers is reported to have slowed for the final quarter of...