Aust telco charges falling, could do better: Report

Telecommunications prices in Australia are falling, but local consumers are still facing charges up to 45 per cent higher than those in other countries including Finland and Sweden.

A report by the Productivity Commission released yesterday reveals there have been price reductions across most telco services both in Australia and internationally.

Australian price falls were relatively large for PSTN and ISDN services, but were relatively small for mobile services, the report said.

According to the report, residential telephone prices in Australia fell about 8 per cent between February 1998 and June 1999. Despite the reductions, local prices are still "average" among the countries surveyed, with the best performing countries generally 20-45 per cent lower than Australia, the report revealed.

"Clearly prices are falling [in Australia] but they are also falling overseas," Chris Sayers, assistant commissioner at the Productivity Commission said.

Sayers said there was no way to predict when Australia's prices will fall to the best performers' prices.

"One would hope so. There is evidence of a long history of falling prices," he said.

"Recent initiatives to increase competition should have some affect."

Of some concern is news that Australia's mobile phone charges are amongst the most expensive surveyed, but Sayers said since the benchmarking this is some evidence of more reductions.

The report - International Benchmarking of Telecommunications Prices and Price Changes - compares Australian prices and regulatory arrangements with those in Canada, Finland, France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and US.

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