Vodafone welcomes Smart Farming report

Further calls for telco policy reform to boost jobs, growth and productivity in rural Australia

Vodafone has welcomed the Smart Farming: Inquiry into agricultural innovation report, tabled by the House of Representatives Agricultural and Industry Committee in Federal Parliament this week, which adds another strong voice to growing calls for telecommunications policy reform to improve access to mobile services in regional Australia.

Vodafone Chief Strategy Officer Dan Lloyd said the Committee’s findings reinforced long-standing calls for reform by Vodafone and many others, including Infrastructure Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“The Agricultural and Industry Committee has sent a powerful bipartisan message that our great agricultural industry could be much more productive and profitable with better, improved mobile services,” Mr Lloyd said.

“Report after report has arrived at the same finding – limited access to reliable and competitive mobile services in regional and rural Australia is holding communities back and hindering employment and growth potential.

“As Australians increasingly choose mobile services over landlines, the telco class divide which exists between customers in the major cities – who have access to world-class, competitive mobile services – and those in regional areas who don’t, must be addressed

“Mobile telecommunications present huge opportunities for the Australian agricultural sector through Machine to
Machine technology to increase productivity, but farmers need reliable and affordable services to take advantage of 21st century solutions.

“This report finds that farmers want to use cutting-edge technology to improve their productivity and profitability but are held back by the telecommunications equivalent of a horse and cart in the form of unreliable, costly mobile services and lack of coverage.”

Mr Lloyd said the report was further compelling proof the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) arrangements must lead to meaningful change which benefits customers in regional areas.

“We think it’s a huge missed opportunity that $253 million in public funding is spent through the USO every year to
maintain an outdated copper network in regional areas which will be connected to the NBN,” he said.

“If a permanent Mobile Black Spot Programme was established, as this report recommends, potentially using diverted USO funds would increase the number of regional areas to receive increased coverage and choice.

“We also support the Committee’s recommendation that in areas where it is economically unviable to build more than one set of infrastructure, mobile service providers should be encouraged to share infrastructure.”

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Notes to editors:
Smart farming: Inquiry into agricultural innovation, tabled in Federal Parliament on 4 May 2016.