Public consultation opens for new International Mobile Roaming Standard

On 5 February 2016 the Federal Government announced amendments to the Telecommunications (International Mobile Roaming) Industry Standard 2013 ("the IMR Standard").  The changes are aimed at giving consumers greater flexibility in managing their roaming services and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on mobile operators.  ACMA is consulting on the proposed changes. Submissions are due by 30 March.

ACMA developed the IMR Standard in 2013 to allow consumers to better monitor and control their spending on international mobile roaming services while overseas.

ACMA says the proposed amendments will:

  • give consumers more choice in the ways they can opt-out of mobile roaming services;
  • allow service providers to provide the option for consumers to opt out of receiving roaming usage alerts and multiple spend-management notifications;
  • reduce the number of notifications required to be sent by service providers by enabling service providers to provide mandatory on-arrival roaming information to travellers in a single SMS; and
  • delay some requirements of the Standard due to be imposed on Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) until after a scheduled review in 2018.

Further information is available on the ACMA website, including a draft of the amended IMR Standard and a consultation paper about the amendments. 

The Telecommunications (Amendment of International Mobile Roaming Industry Standard) Direction can be viewed here.  

ACMA and NZDIA extend agreement to fight spam

ACMA and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (NZDIA) have updated their agreement to assist each other in their respective Anti-Spam responsibilities. 

Under the agreement, ACMA and NZDIA will share techniques and tools for countering spam, with ACMA already sharing its own Spam Intelligence Database enforcement and analytical software with NZDIA.

ACMA and NZDIA first agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in April 2009.  The revised MoU has a term of five years, with some amendments and enhancements, including a commitment to share modifications and software enhancements to ACMA's Spam Intelligence Database, and to share intelligence about phishing activity, malware and botnets.

ACMA explains: Malware is malicious software that gives unauthorised access to a computer, or causes damage or disruption to computer-based systems.  Spam is one of the main methods used to propagate malware, and malware is also frequently used to send spam around the world.  The Australian Cyber Security Centre reported that malware was the predominant cybercrime threat affecting Australians in 2014.

For the media release, click here.  

Mobile service provider breaches TCP Code

ACMA has directed a mobile service provider to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code).

An investigation found the company had failed to keep any records of due response dates for its complaints, and in some circumstances had not advised customers of delays in dealing with their complaints.  ACMA said that this made it "difficult to ensure that it met the timeframes set out in the TCP Code (two working days for urgent complaints, 15 working days for non-urgent complaints)".

The company has undertaken to review its complaints-handling record-keeping to ensure it meets the requirements of the TCP.

The TCP Code includes a number of obligations on telco providers to give greater protections to customers from confusing mobile plans, bill shock and poor complaint handling practices.

For the media release, click here.  

Government tables response to the Regional Telecommunications Review report

On 23 February 2016 the government tabled its response to the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review report which made 12 key recommendations to improve telecommunications access in regional, rural and remote Australia.

In its response, the government notes that adjustments need to be made to current consumer safeguards to stay up-to-date with changes to available telecommunications technologies and consumer expectations.  The government says it "agrees that there are arguments that the current consumer safeguard regime is increasingly outdated, given the evolution of the telecommunications markets, including the rollout of the NBN".

The government also notes that communications products and services are becoming increasingly diverse and varied and are not necessarily delivered via fixed line infrastructure.

In a joint statement with the Minister for Regional Communications, Fiona Nash, the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, said the Productivity Commission has been asked to undertake an inquiry into the future requirements of the Universal Services Obligation in an evolving telecommunications market, with the Terms of Reference to be issued shortly.

The Government response is available here.  

ACMA approves updated TCP Code compliance and monitoring arrangements

ACMA has "approved updated compliance and monitoring arrangements for telecommunications providers under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code)".

ACMA says the current arrangements, outlined in Chapter 9 of the TCP Code, have contributed to improved levels of provider compliance and associated consumer protections since their introduction in 2013.

Under the updated requirements, ACMA notes:

  • in a new 'once only' requirement, all telecommunications providers that offer services to residential and small business customers, irrespective of whether they have previously lodged documents with CommCom will need to register their details with Communications Alliance Ltd (CA) by 3 May 2016;
  • smaller providers - those with fewer than 3,000 services in operation (SIO) - will need to lodge annual compliance documents with CommCom by 29 April 2016 or indicate they will defer lodgement to a second registration period ending 1 September 2016; and
  • larger providers - with 3,000 or more SIOs - will be required to lodge annual compliance documents by 1 September each year.

Providers covered by the TCP should note that Chapter 9 allows for a delay in the first lodgment period to 29 April for 2016 only.  From 2017 onwards, CommCom's first lodgement period will end on 1 April each year (for smaller providers) and the second lodgment period will end on 1 September (for larger providers).

The media release is available here.  

ACMA outlines strategy for addressing growth in mobile broadband traffic

ACMA has outlined its strategy for addressing growth in mobile broadband traffic and an associated work plan. 

ACMA says that the strategy outline and work plan have been finalised following a "comprehensive industry consultation process" which included a discussion paper released last September.

ACMA has outlined five strategies to address the growth in demand for mobile broadband capacity:   

  1. adopting a "holistic" approach to addressing mobile broadband capacity that balances the available inputs of spectrum, technology and network infrastructure;
  2. articulating a transparent spectrum management process for identifying potential future spectrum options for mobile broadband;
  3. utilising the often long lead-times to assist in reducing the effect on incumbents arising from re-farming of spectrum to mobile broadband;
  4. exploring and adopting the opportunities for greater sharing between mobile broadband services and other services; and
  5. engaging in international deliberations to influence the development of domestically suitable internationally harmonised spectrum options.  

The strategy says that "quantitative estimates provide no insight into the frequency band required and do not capture other important qualitative aspects.  These aspects include properties such as the desired characteristics of the spectrum (for example, whether high or low band spectrum is appropriate), international spectrum harmonisation and technology standardisation factors".

The new method will include an assessment of the incremental costs imposed on firms providing services using the spectrum that is to be refarmed.  ACMA will also look to spectrum sharing as a key tool in maximising the utility achieved through the use of spectrum resource.

ACMA also released a mobile broadband work program update, outlining its current spectrum planning work program regarding mobile broadband, as at February 2016.

The media release and package is available here.