Vodafone Australia is escalating its campaign to have regulated domestic roaming established in Australia, by filing judicial review proceedings with the Federal Court of Australia today. Vodafone is asking the Court to review the process by which the ACCC reached (and thus released) a draft decision denying a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service in Australia.

Of the decision, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) says ‘Australian mobile phone users will continue to pay too much and suffer poor coverage in regional areas following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) draft decision on domestic roaming’.

The grounds for the decision to seek a judicial review are, Vodafone says, that the ACCC ‘has not identified a detailed description of the roaming service, which VHA considers it is required to do by law’.

Vodafone has said of the decision to file for a review of the process:

We do not believe the process has been carried out properly because a specific domestic roaming service has not been defined by the ACCC. The process is failing consumers because it is too vague.

The decision on domestic roaming is too important to regional Australia for the inquiry to continue in a flawed way.

A wholesale domestic mobile roaming service in Australia would allow Vodafone, and other carriers, access to each others towers (and backhaul services) around Australia for the purposes of supplying better coverage to customers on all networks. This sounds wonderful, however as Telstra pointed out at the time, if other carriers were able to access their towers in areas which have traditionally low coverage for these other carriers, it would essentially give other carriers a free ride — though Telstra would be paid a standardised roaming fee from other carriers which use those towers.

Telstra’s claim is also a little questionable, as Telstra received a large portion of their current network thanks to being government owned, or winning contracts for supplying infrastructure for government works such as the NBN or receiving public monies for blackspot reduction works over the years.

In a brief statement, the ACCC said

We have consulted extensively with regional Australia in relation to our draft decision, and the majority of views we received from farmer and other stakeholders groups were not in favour of the ACCC declaring domestic roaming.

The instigation of an ACCC mandated, regulated, wholesale domestic mobile roaming service in Australia would be a win for the customer. Telstra of course, as a publicly owned company, can’t just roll over, it has to protect its biggest asset which of course is their extremely comprehensive network which covers the majority of the Australian continent.

One wonders if Vodafone’s application has all that much merit, but from an outsiders perspective, it’s hard to judge. What we do know, though, is that the judicial review process for administrative decisions is fairly narrow; at best, the Federal Court could determine that the ACCC reached its draft decision unfairly, improperly or unlawfully, and set the decision aside, remitting the matter to the ACCC to be redetermined according to the directions of the Court.

We, for our part, would love to see a wholesale domestic roaming service declared and made available, but only on the proviso that it did not unfairly burden Telstra or any other carrier. Any such service would have to have reasonable roaming fees fixed so that carriers can be indemnified from additional costs from roaming customers.

Source: Vodafone.
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Gregory Eden

I would have to wholeheartedly agree with Morgan below. If we the tax payer pay for the Blackspot Program then how can those towers be locked to one company? How can tax payer money be used to extend the monopoly of Telstra or lock in customers for Optus or Vodafone? The Black Spot towers should be open to all carriers. You do not fix black spots if half the people travelling though still cannot use them and it only helps locals if they are shackled to the company who got our money to build a local tower.

Paul Warner

It’s a bit rich Vodafone AU complaining that they want to roam on the likes of Telstra’s network . They Vodafone were the ones who here in NZ kicked up a real fuss when they were forced to allow 2Degrees to roam on their network..

Chris Rowland

I agree, it’s a bit rich, but I think one of the main arguments is somewhat sound; if networks were built with public funding, there is an obligation (I’d argue) for the public to benefit from them, without necessarily having to be a customer of the contractor who built those towers. In other areas, though, I agree somewhat with what you’re saying.


I wonder what reasons there are for not just having Domestic Roaming declared for the towers that are federally/blackspot funded, no matter which company primarily built it? Wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems here, as in it would increase general coverage in regional areas for everyone (as not any one carrier gets all blackspot funding), and ensure fair use of the money? And also would still allow companies to privately build out their own regional towers themselves and decide themselves whether they want to provide domestic roaming or not.


The government assisted in Black spot funding, all telcos could use the funds but they had to put the bulk in themselves. Vodafone could have participated but didn’t want to invest. Telstra and Optus are the only ones investing in loss making our low return remote towers and Vodafone and TPG want a free ride. If you live in the city and want rural coverage use a proper mobile provider, not Vodafone or many of its resellers on the cheap, you get what you pay for. If Telstra and Optus have to share they will stop building low profit towers… Read more »