As combative Telstra chief executive officer Sol Trujillo prepared for a day of briefings tomorrow to announce the findings of his strategic review of the company's operations -- with the impact of regulatory settings on the business certain to be high on the agenda -- the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a report titled Consumer Benefits Resulting From Australia's Telecommunications Sector.
The sector enjoyed a boost of more than AU$12 billion in the 12 months to March 2005, according to the report, which cites regulatory policy, government subsidies and the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) intervention in broadband pricing among reasons for the boost.
"These findings reflect the importance of the telecommunications sector to the Australian economy, and in particular the importance of getting the regulatory settings right, including measures to promote competition," said Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan.
Coonan also claimed the reforms helped benefit the small business sector by AU$200 milllion, increase investment by AU$500 million, and create 23,000 jobs.
"Moreover, ACMA's report shows the incredible impact the government's AU$157.8 million Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS) is having on the rate of broadband take-up," said Coonan.
The volume of data downloads increased by 230 percent over the 12 month period, during a time when prices per gigabyte fell by 50 percent for broadband services, according to the report.
"The report found that towns with populations between 800 and 2,000 were the main beneficiaries of faster broadband speeds," said Coonan.
"In the past year, more than 800 regional and rural towns have been connected to terrestrial broadband services, such as ADSL and wireless, as a direct result of HiBIS."
Acting ACMA chair Lyn Maddock also claimed government reforms to the sector were responsible for many of the findings.
"Consumers continue to receive substantial benefits from telecommunications reforms," she said.
"The net benefit to the economy is estimated as AU$1.97 billion in 2004-05, with consumers benefiting from new types of services and lower costs over an increasing geographical spread."