28 Feb 2014
By David Thodey

Building mobile networks: how Australia is a global success story


I have been at the Mobile World Congress over the past few days. During this time I’ve been struck how the discussion has consistently returned to how to attract the commercial investment necessary to build world class mobile networks.

This is not surprising. With the growth in mobile data, a high functioning mobiles sector is now a necessary pre-condition to economic development and global competitiveness.

However, to unlock the huge benefits of mobility for the global economy – e.g. to move the developing world from 2G to 4G, to transform the way businesses connect and to deliver opportunities like e-health, smart city andM2M – we must attract capital investment in mobile networks.

Many countries are now looking at how to replicate the success of the Australian mobiles sector with its rapid growth, sustained high levels of investment and strong uptake in new technologies.

As part of our contribution to the global discussion, we commissioned an independent study by two leading economists (Dr Alex Robson of Griffith University and Dr John Small of Covec consulting) of the Australian mobiles market.

The study, ‘Economic drivers and contribution of mobile communications in Australia’, finds technological advances in mobile communications have delivered significant economic benefits to the Australian population with further gains set to continue through the continued rollout of 4G networks and the utilisation of the 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands of spectrum.

Dr Robson and Dr Small identified several factors that can be credited with these benefits, including the willingness of operators to adopt technology and invest in their networks, as well as a regulatory setting that encourages this investment. Basically, this means when the regulatory system allows network quality and coverage to become a competitive advantage in the retail market, investment will flow.

Some more findings of the report are below and I would encourage anyone who is interested in the topic to read the full report.

As always, I would value your views and opinions.

Key findings of Dr Robson and Dr Small

  • Across many key measures, including uptake of technology, investment in network coverage and capacity, and value for money, the Australian mobiles market is performing at a very high level and delivering significant economic benefits.
  • New technologies are being adopted. Competing network providers have installed increasingly advanced technologies and these investments have allowed other sectors to develop – devices and applications.
  • A major factor in the consumer benefits of mobiles is network investment and competition between networks. The state of competition is such that each network has both the ability and the incentive to upgrade their networks.
  • Australia has benefited from a relatively light-handed approach to mobile regulation (e.g. limited retail or wholesale price intervention, no regulation of domestic roaming) and this stance deserves some of the credit for the benefits Australians have enjoyed from the mobile sector.
  • Residents of regional and remote regions are benefiting from competition in urban areas because there is no geographic price discrimination


Posts: 31


  1. Malcolm Garner says:

    I find the complete web page helpful in many ways

  2. Greg says:

    Nice article David and I am sure that this makes you feel very proud of your time at the helm of Telstra and watching the roll-out and take up of mobile devices and the use of mobile data.

    The research makes mention about regional and remote areas benefiting from competition in urban areas and this no price discrimination, which all sounds so wonderful … yes we pay the same amount for mobile broadband as those in urban areas but most of them also have access to a wired service of some type, thereby giving them sufficient data to cater for modern internet uses and leisure.

    When will data availability in rural areas become more useful, in that I mean the current data available on mobile broadband plans remains insufficient for families with children at school. I know you are aware of my requests as I have been making them for many years now but so far there continues to be this void when it comes to mobile data being sufficient for families that are not able to be serviced by a wired connection.

    So when will we see a more equitable set of data plans for mobile users that have no access to a wired service, like for like is not going to happen I understand that but 15GB is not enough and 25GB is too expensive, not that 25GB is enough either.

    I look forward to your response that provides a positive outcome for rural and regional users using the mobile broadband service as the only broadband service available to them.

    • David Thodey says:

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for your note.

      Through your previous engagement with me I am aware of your interest in trying to find a solution to the issue of providing affordable fixed broadband solutions in regional Australia. While we continue to look at ways to provide more value over time for our customers using mobile broadband, the fact is that it costs more to provide additional capacity over mobile broadband than fixed and this is reflected in the pricing structure of the two services.

      While Telstra continues to look at expanding coverage on a case by case basis where it makes commercial sense, it is important to note that when the Federal Government announced in April 2009 that it would build a National Broadband Network to provide all Australians with access to high speed broadband it effectively took large-scale investment out of the hands of the existing operators and gave this responsibility to NBN Co. NBN Co announced in 2010 it would invest $1.5 billion to launch two new satellites to provide high speed broadband in remote areas, and is also in the process of rolling out a fixed wireless broadband service in regional Australia.

      I realise that this does not solve your issue in the short term but I hope it provides more context on how we make our pricing and investment decisions.


  3. Anthony says:

    I hate the fake misleading information Telstra put out there about your so called amazing network. Every in Sydney your network is slow, unstable and unusable with any handset(iPhone, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia I know I had all of them in last two years).

    Issues I have to put up with because with I’m with telstra:

    * Slow speed(normally two times or more slower then vodafone or Optus)
    * Your DNS server just stops working and some website will not load.
    * Your SMS gateway go down all the time and most of the time messages fail
    * Your online service are down all the time(Like even your website has been broken for two days and telstra has not fixed it)
    * You have Infinite loop redirects on some areas of the telstra like business login page.
    * Your website is hard to use and has a lots of broken links.
    * your 4G network is inaccessible in the morning from 7:00 AM TO 8:30 AM
    * Call dropping.
    * I can’t get phone calls on my iPhone because it go directly to voice mail and does not ring.
    * At some areas like bankstown, airport underground you can not use internet at all.
    * Telstra sells known faulty phones like the Nokia Lumia 920 without telling customers but will not allow the customers to return the handset even when the staff members tell you it has large known issues(Can’t SMS, will not turn on etc).
    * If you call Telstra Support and report a issue like can’t sms, internet to slow to use. they will not do anything unless a mobile tower is offline

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