Aussies may soon have better phone coverage during natural disasters as the federal government explores implementing a national emergency mobile roaming capability.

The government will scope a new emergency data roaming scheme amid growing safety concerns of a horrific bushfire season over the coming summer.

The move comes following a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) examining ways of improving regional mobile infrastructure.

The new report has revealed it’s possible to develop a temporary emergency data roaming scheme for Australians caught in natural disasters.

The latest ACCC report looked at the challenges providing reliable, accessible and resilience communications in regional Australia.

It examined the feasibility of temporary roaming services to enable Australians to connect to any available mobile network during natural disasters and other emergencies.

The federal government will now work with the telecommunications industry to scope an emergency mobile roaming capability during natural disasters.

Australia is expected to be hit hard this bushfire season, with above average temperatures and below average rainfall expected for almost the entire country, according to the National Council for fire and emergency services.

This, combined with excessive fuel load growth over the years of La Nina conditions, paints a dangerous picture for bushfire risk.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland said an effective roaming scheme would be “vital” for communities affected by a natural disaster.

“The government will work with industry to scope a new emergency roaming capability so that Australians can stay connected during disasters, regardless of who their carrier might be,” Ms Rowland said.

“While no network can ever be 100 per cent resilient, an effective emergency roaming could play a vital role in keeping Australians informed during a disaster.

“Making sure we have the right regulatory settings is also critical to deploy mobile infrastructure in regional communities, including considering infrastructure sharing between carriers.”

 The ACCC found that temporary emergency roaming was technically feasible, but further work was needed to design and develop the capability.

Emergency Management minister Senator Murray Watt said the ACCC report will help inform the government as it considers next steps to address these challenges.

“Disasters can occur and change quickly, making connectivity vital for all Australians,” Mr Watt said.

“That’s why enhancing emergency roaming mobile capability has the potential to save many lives.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with industry to provide a communications framework to all Australians in the face of increasingly complex disasters.”

The report found better co-ordination between government and mobile network operators would also help mitigate risks such as network congestion.

The report makes the case for a review of existing regulation that governs access to mobile towers and associated infrastructure in regional areas to deliver better outcomes for consumers.


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By Rahul

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