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Remote, rural and urban telecommunications services

International benchmarking report

This report was released on 24 July 2001. The report resulted from a benchmarking study in which the Commission compared the accessibility, quality and prices of telecommunications services in remote and rural areas with those in urban areas, in Australia and in other countries. The study forms part of a continuing program of research benchmarking the performance of economic infrastructure industries.

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  • Media release
  • Contents

Australian rural and remote telecommunications users experience some disadvantages compared with urban users, but generally no more so than in other countries, according to the Productivity Commission's latest benchmarking study. This is despite the higher cost of providing services in more sparsely populated Australia.

The report, International Benchmarking of Remote, Rural and Urban Telecommunications Services, looks at the extent of differences in the accessibility, quality and price of telecommunications services between remote, rural and urban areas in Australia and other comparable countries.

The prices of traditional telephone voice services are similar in rural and urban areas in Australia and in most of the countries studied (although callers' bills can be higher depending on call patterns). The quality advantage for urban over rural users in Australia was similar to that in Canada, the only other country with comparable data.

In remote (outback) areas, the cost differential for users of traditional telephone voice services will soon be less in Australia than in most other countries.

Mobile coverage of Australia's rural population was estimated to be similar to that in New Zealand, less than that in Europe (where population densities are higher) but probably greater than in the United States.

Longer distances in remote and rural areas result in lower data transmission rates. This means that Internet access is typically slower over traditional telephone and radio networks than in urban areas. High speed access to the Internet using new technologies is now available in all countries, but market penetration is low.

The Commission noted that governments in most countries, including Australia, are providing financial assistance for improvements to existing services or the introduction of new services in remote and rural areas.

Further information

02 6240 3330

Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Abbreviations, Overview

1 Introduction
1.1 Study objective
1.2 Scope
1.3 Approach
1.4 Data collection
1.5 Structure of the report

2 Demographic and institutional context
2.1 Rural and urban population densities
2.2 Industry ownership
2.3 Regulatory environment
2.4 Remote and rural initiatives by government
2.5 In summary

3 Public Switched Telephone Services
3.1 Penetration
3.2 Quality of service
3.3 Price
3.4 In summary

4 Mobile voice services
4.1 Mobile networks
4.2 Coverage and penetration
4.3 Quality of service
4.4 Prices
4.5 In summary

5 Basic PSTN access to the Internet
5.1 Accessing the Internet
5.2 Internet penetration and use
5.3 Factors affecting quality of service outcomes
5.4 Data transmission rate relativities
5.5 Impact on user costs
5.6 In summary

6 High speed access to the Internet
6.1 Technology options
6.2 Factors affecting deployment and penetration
6.3 Deployment and penetration
6.4 In summary

7 Outcomes for Internet users
7.1 Internet options
7.2 Price comparisons for services in Australia
7.3 International comparisons
7.4 In summary


A Participants