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