Nationals Leader David Littleproud is calling for mandated domestic mobile roaming in regional, rural and remote Australia in the wake of the Optus outage.
Mr Littleproud said the outage, which impacted 10 million Australians, underlined the need to introduce mandated mobile roaming, initially through a pilot program in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia, while broader capacity in the network could be built up.
A domestic mobile roaming service is where a mobile network operator is able to roam onto the network of another mobile network operator, so they can provide services outside of their own network coverage.
“We must ensure the outage that occurred with Optus never happens again,” Mr Littleproud said.
“As households and businesses face a cost-of-living crisis, one of Australia’s biggest telco outages in history hit them at the worst possible time.
“We need a common sense approach to this problem. By starting mobile roaming in regional, rural and remote areas we can target it in the areas of greatest need, while potential pressures of roaming on metropolitan network capacity can be worked through before rolling out in the densely populated capital cities.
“The urgency for the regions is the tyranny of distance we face and the threat of natural disaster emergencies such as the upcoming bushfire season.”
Mr Littleproud said Australia doesn’t even allow for emergency mobile roaming, (although it does allow for emergency calls to 000), which was a significant safety issue in regional areas.
“The ACCC recently completed an inquiry into regional mobile infrastructure and found that emergency mobile roaming is beneficial during times of natural disasters or other emergencies.
“The Communications Minister and Emergency Management Minister have both tasked their respective departments to work with carriers and report back to the government by March 2024.
“However, regional Australians are already experiencing natural disasters like bushfires as we head into summer.
“Australians deserve and need adequate and reliable mobile coverage now. This week’s outage proves the need for mandated domestic roaming, which would share all the towers between all the telcos.
“More importantly, mandated roaming is critical as a safety and emergency response.”
Mr Littleproud added it was disappointing that Labor voted against scrutiny of the government’s handling of the Optus crisis.
“We need to look at ways to better protect all Australians and the simple answer is mandated domestic mobile roaming.”