Mobile roaming occurs when the customers of a mobile network operator are able to make calls using base stations owned by other operators. Roaming is only technically possible over the same type of network, for example, GSM networks.
For this to occur, the mobile phone operators must make a roaming agreement. Some roaming agreements exist within Australia. These are generally between companies operating smaller networks who wish to give their customers access to mobile services over a much larger area. Whether or not companies enter into these agreements is entirely a commercial matter.
The ACCC announced a review of mobile services under the telecommunications access regime in March 2003. In June 2004 the ACCC released a final report relating to the mobile terminating access service and made a declaration for this service on 30 June 2004. The declaration requires carriers to provide the mobile service to other operators at an indicative price currently determined at nine cents per minute.
The government is working on a number of fronts in regard to international mobile roaming to benefit Australian consumers and business.
Trans-Tasman mobile roaming
The Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon John Key, announced on 9 February 2013 that Australia and New Zealand will work together to address the high costs to business and consumers of using mobile roaming across the Tasman.
This is in response to a joint market investigation on trans-Tasman mobile roaming between Australia and New Zealand. The joint report, prepared by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, is available on the Trans-Tasman mobile roaming page.
The joint market investigation follows public consultation on a draft report. Details of this consultation and the draft report are available on the Trans-Tasman mobile roaming page.
Mobile roaming consumer awareness
In consultation with relevant stakeholders, the Australian Communications and Media Authority is developing an industry standard that will require Australian providers of mobile roaming services to give consumers clear information upon arrival at their overseas destination.
More information is on the Mobile roaming consumer awareness page.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications announced a Parliamentary Inquiry on 19 June 2008 into international mobile roaming charges. Hearings took place in September, November and December 2008. The report was tabled on 19 March 2009. Further information is available on the Inquiry's website.
The Government tabled its response to the Parliamentary Inquiry report on 9 September 2009. In its response, the Government noted that it understands the need for a more competitive mobile roaming environment and increased consumer awareness of mobile roaming services and charges, and outlined a number of actions it would take to encourage these.
- Government response to the Parliamentary inquiry report on international mobile roaming (PDF, 67 KB)
In 2008, KPMG was engaged to investigate international roaming charges, including the differences between prices paid by Australian consumers and consumers in other countries. The report found that Australians pay more while roaming overseas on average than consumers from countries in Asia and North America roaming in Australia. The reverse was true for Europe, although the roaming rates there are higher than elsewhere on average.